MARKET TRADER, MAY 10 - 23, 2019 “It seems the other two
markets (Smithf ield and Billingsgate) are prepared to accept and make the move. It will be really tight for all three markets, we had been hoping for a larger site to expand our businesses. “It’s a bit of a disappointment.
We’re not very supportive as it stands, we need an in depth consultation, the road networks need to be looked at.”
Going out to what was once
Essex Cllr Darren Rodwell the Leader of Barking and Dagenham Counci l welcomed the news saying: “This is fantastic news! We all know London is moving east and Barking and Dagenham is on the up. It’s time to bring London’s wholesale markets home where they belong. And that home is Barking and Dagenham. “Barking once boasted
the largest fishing fleet in the world until the late 19th century. It is therefore fitting that London’s main fishing market is coming home. “Our aspirat ion today
is to br ing jobs to the borough, train the butchers, fishmongers and market gardeners of tomorrow, and take every opportunity to secure a new retail and educational of fer as part of the regeneration of the Roding riverside area.”
Media coverage of this move concentrated on Smithfield
going big on i ts eight hundred year history on the location, usually decorated with various archive images. Fine. Faced with writing about somewhere you’ve never been have no idea about and probably had never even thought about until the editor barked out the instruction 500 words on this maybe there’s no alternative. The Standard’s editorial was a classic piece of nonsense. For the Chat though things
are different. You see my belief has always been that if you ask the question ‘If I was starting this business now would it be here?’ and the answer is anything other than a firm ‘yes’ then you really shouldn’t be ‘here’ at all. That at least is the situation
it seems to me with Smithfield which has shrunk in size over the years to match the shrinking demand for red meat and in particular the ‘Sunday joint’. There’s another issue too.
Wholesale markets are by nature creatures of the night. Once you are surrounded for whatever reason by folk who actually want shut-eye at that time and don’t really relish the only activity going on while they’re about being sweeping up you are on the back foot. Rightly or wrongly. What is interesting though
is how we’ve got here and how consolidated markets have finally arrived. Long time readers will recall the Saphir Review in
2002 which came up with the clear recommendation that London should be serviced by three such ‘composite markets’ for meat, fish, fruit and vegetables based at the sites of New Covent Garden, New Spitalfields and Western International. (Mind you they’ll also recall that in 2004 the City of London losta case they’d brought against the Garden’s plans to allow meat and fish trading on site.) Sixteen years on then the
City’s current choice for the future is option 3 as set out in the London Wholesale Markets review of 2007 viz: “Consolidation of City of London Sites. Activities at Smithfield and Billingsgate would be relocated to New Spitalfields and the other two sites would be released. New Spitalfields would operate as a composite market.” The only difference is the relocation of the lot. But it’s worth recalling
that it was a quarter of a century ago in 1994 that the Strathclyde Repor t questioned ‘whether London needs so many markets’. Oh yes and in case you’ve forgot ten there was the London Plan 2004 a ‘Spatial Development Strategy’ for the capital, quickly followed by Further Alterations to the London Plan then the London Food Strategy, 2006 – which aimed inter alia ‘to ensure London has a food system that is consistent with
the Mayor’s objective that London should be a world- class, sustainable city.’ But with hindsight it was
the London Wholesale Mar- kets Review which got to the nub. Yes it covered all the old ground but in addi- tion stressed the fact that some gaffs were on sites of incredible development value claiming that selling could well show a profit overall even after new markets are built elsewhere and tenant’s relo- cation costs covered. That report came down in favour of Composite Markets with consolidation on to one site a solution likely to offer modest reductions in travel miles and the best benefit economically. It concluded: “Market
trends have placed intense competitive pressure on the wholesale markets in recent years. In the next 15-20 years, the wholesale markets will need to be flexible, innovative and efficient if they are to be commercially viable. Consolidation of fers the best opportunity to sustain a wholesale market function to meet anticipated need.” But it warned: “There are
considerable practical and political difficulties involved in consolidating the markets, with the considerable amount of parliamentary time needed to relocate activities being a major hurdle in addition to the usual issues around development planning and costs.” Well we’ll have to see if
Looking down one of the buyer’s walks one wonder what will come after the move to Barking for these historic arcades?
those hurdles have somehow evaporated. What I will have to do is stop
making rash predictions. As each report, initiative,
call them what you will has appeared the Chat (aka Millsy) has replied with pretty well the same mantra along the lines of “I’d be prepared to bet that thirty years on most of the present Wholesale
Markets will be untidily – and to some inef ficiently – in the same places doing very much the same things, if only because that’s what the users seem to want.” Well I was wrong. But it
wasn’t what the customers wanted – i t was other pressures, in the words of a well-known ‘red top’ what done it!
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