Smithfield market traders promise to ‘fight back’ over proposed relocation plans
Meat traders operating at Smithfield Market (London Central Markets) are looking to invoke a Royal Charter as a means of protecting their right to operate on the historic site near Farrington Station, London. Meanwhile, the City of London Corporation is seeking legal action through a private parliamentary bill to revoke this right.
The City of London Corporation, the local authority responsible for the Square Mile, is the landlord of the historic venue. Under plans for redevelopment, the London Museum currently located at nearby Goswell Road, will move to the Smithfield site supported by the Corporation. The City authority is backing the museum move with funding of nearly £200 million.
Part of the museum’s development plan involves the incorporation of Smithfield’s Poultry Market, which is still fully occupied by working traders. In addition, some of the site’s tenants have connections to the market going back over many generations. Livestock and meat have been sold at Smithfield Market and before that the Smoothfield site on which the market stands, for at least 900 years.
As reported previously by Meat Management, The Corporation is asking traders to relocate and join with the two other prominent London markets, Billingsgate and New Spitalfields at a combined new facility 14 miles from Dagenham Docks.
Negotiations between the Corporation and the traders have been ongoing for around three and a half years. As a result, the museum’s launch at the Smithfield site has been pushed back repeatedly.
In a preliminary consultation back in 2019 around 80% of traders surveyed said they were against being uprooted.
Planning proposals submitted by the Corporation as part of the consultation have claimed that “the current facilities and trading environments at all three markets are outdated and unsustainable”.
However, since then, the Smithfield Market Tenants’ Association has insisted that a Royal Charter protects the market’s status and that its members still have years left on their leases.
In response, the Corporation said that it intends to deposit a private bill to the Houses of Parliament later this year for approval to move the markets. It is widely acknowledged that without some form of agreement between the traders and the Corporation, passing this bill may not be possible.
Room for growth
A City of London Corporation spokesperson told Meat Management: “The City of London Corporation remains committed to co-locating London’s three historic wholesale markets – Billingsgate, Smithfield, and New Spitalfields – at Dagenham Dock and to working with the tenants of all three markets to achieve this.”
The spokesperson added: “We believe that the co-location is the best way of securing the long-term future of the markets, providing market tenants with room for growth and modern, environmentally sustainable facilities fit for the 21st century, while stimulating economic growth in Barking and Dagenham.”
Meat Management understands that allegedly The Smithfield Market Tenants’ Association has accused the City of “bully boy” tactics, having been locked in negotiations for more than three years.
Greg Lawrence, the group’s chairman, told the Islington Tribune last year: “It’s wrong what the City is doing. It’s so wrong. They are trying to come in here and bully us and we won’t stand for it. We will go to whatever lengths, legally, we have to. They have a fight on their hands.”