The City of London has bought a huge plot of land next to Dagenham Dock currently occupied by a power station, in a preemptive strike to stop other bidders getting their hands on the land.
The purchase is because the City of London is looking for a replacement site for its three markets, Smithfield meat market, New Spitalfields fruit and veg market, and Billingsgate fish market, which it plans to merge into a single location.
New Spitalfields moved to Leyton in 1991, while Billingsgate moved to the Canary Wharf area in 1982 — only Smithfield remains in its 800 year old home.
The site in Dagenham is currently occupied by a gas powered electricity generator, the Barking Reach Power Station, but it closed in 2014, after less than two decades of operations, and is currently being demolished.
Although the City hasn’t agreed on a location, the 42-acre site in Dagenham is large enough, but was also being eyed up by a number of other bidders. The City in buying the land is ensuring that it has the option to use it for the food markets if none of its other sites prove suitable.
Although the price paid has not been disclosed, it’s thought to be in the region of £100 million – which is a lot just to ensure other people can’t buy a plot of land you might want to use, maybe.
They can always sell it on later if they move the food markets elsewhere.
Its location could be a key factor, being close to the A13 main road, the railway, and the river for deliveries.
Wherever the markets end up, in order to move them to a new site, an Act of Parliament would be needed as the markets are still governed by some ancient laws.
When vacated, the Billingsgate site is reported to have the potential for 1,500 new homes, and New Spitalfields for around 1,200 homes. Smithfield is likely to become offices.
A consultation on the final location is expected to open next year.
Whatever location is chosen, London’s ancient food markets will be on the move once more, and the sight of butchers working around Farringdon will fade into memory.