The City of London has confirmed what was pretty much already known, that Smithfield Meat Market is to leave its historic central London home.
The Court of Common Council, the City of London’s main decision-making body, has decided to consolidate and relocate three historic wholesale food markets, Smithfield Market, Billingsgate Market and New Spitalfields Market.
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.
Four sites had been shortlisted for a possible combined food market, at Barking Reach in Dagenham, Silvertown in Newham; Fairlop in Redbridge; and Thames Enterprise Park in Thurrock.
Last year, the City of London 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 42-acre site in Dagenham was being eyed up by a number of other bidders, so the City stepped in to keep it as an option for their market. Or to sell it later if the shortlist settled on an alternative site.
They’ve now confirmed that the new combined food market will go to Dagenham.
Its location could be a key factor, being close to the A13 main road, the railway, and the river for deliveries. City councilors felt the Barking Reach site offered good potential to support the City’s wider vision in a location that was broadly acceptable to traders.
Later this summer, the City Corporation will launch a public consultation on the consolidation of the markets and preferred Barking Reach site. Parliamentary legislation will also be needed to approve any relocation.
Subject to the outcome of the consultation, the City Corporation would propose to bring forward a Private Bill in November 2020 to authorise the relocation of the markets.
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.
While many will mourn the loss of the market from Central London, the meat traders will be delighted with no longer having to pay the congestion charge if they have to leave the market late (by overnight workers standards) when the charge kicks in at 7am.
Maybe Smithfield’s traditional Christmas Eve auction can expand to fish and veg when all three markets are on the one site.