Plans to merge three of the City’s ancient markets to one location have moved ahead as the planning application was formally filed with the council.
If the plans are approved, they will bring together the central London wholesale markets – Billingsgate (fish), New Spitalfields (fruit, vegetables and flowers) and Smithfield (meat and poultry) together for the first time in their histories, to a site outside the City, at Dagenham Dock.
A couple of years ago, in a preemptive move, the City of London bought the former Barking Reach Power Station at Dagenham Dock which was being eyed up by a number of buyers — as a possible site for their combined meat, fish and fruit/veg markets.
What is being developed is to bring the three markets to one site, but to still keep them in three separate buildings so that their individual identities are not lost under a single massive warehouse.
Each floor of these buildings will have a specific use, with storage on the ground floor, market units on the first floor and offices on the second floor, and the roof could also provide a number of functions, including space for a food education centre, amenity spaces, and photovoltaic panels.
The plans also include the potential to use the nearby rail network and River Thames to transfer goods and produce.
The designs have been developed by architects Chetwoods.
If consent is granted, the City will be required to submit a series of detailed planning applications to Barking and Dagenham Council, with the target of opening the new markets by 2025/2026.
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 being eyed up as a cultural centre alongside the future Museum of London site.
One of the unusual side effects of decommissioning an old power station site is that it used to take cooling water from the River Thames, so there are two large tunnels running partially under the river that will need to be made safe. The plan is to backfill them with concrete.
As the outfall tunnel reaches two-thirds of the way across the river, it’s a pity that it would be probably too difficult to extend it the rest of the way and create a pedestrian tunnel linking Thamesmead to Dagenham. It’s certainly large enough – even with the internal concrete linings that would need replacing, it’s slightly wider inside than the Greenwich/Woolwich foot tunnels.
Sadly, the cost is likely to be significant to refurbish the tunnel and extend it, even though the jobs benefit to people living in Thamesmead would be equally significant.