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‘Great shame’ if historic Smithfield gets the chop

Author warns switch away from historic meat market site could put business’s future in doubt

31 May, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Smithfield meat market could move to Dagenham if proposals are approved

A HISTORIAN has warned it will be a “great shame” if Smithfield meat market is relocated to Dagenham as proposed by the City of London Corporation.

Alec Forshaw, a former conservation officer with Islington Council who has written a comprehensive history of the market, said the reaction to the planned move has been mixed among workers.

The City of London Corporation announced last month that their “preferred” site for switching the three historic markets of Smithfield, Billingsgate and New Spitalfields is to Barking Reach, which previously housed coal power stations. Any move will have to be approved by a parliamentary bill following a public consultation which is set to launch later this year.

Mr Forshaw told the Tribune: “Personally, I think it is a great shame that the long history and association of Smithfield with the meat trade is to be broken.”

There has been meat trading from the Farring­don site since the 12th century, and the market celebrated its 150th anniversary last year.

Historian Alec Forshaw

“It will be a loss to the unique character of the area, and to London as a whole,” said Mr Forshaw.

“In practical terms, too, I share the concern that the central London caterers, hoteliers and restaurateurs won’t bother to trek out to Barking to buy their meat, but will find another way.”

He added: “It could be the end of any sort of wholesale meat market.”

Mr Forshaw said he has “spoken to quite a number of people who work in the market” which opens at 2am.

He said “many” of the workers who live in east London are keen on the move because it will mean they can get into work without paying the congestion charge or the newly introduced Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).

But he added: “Many of the managers or owners of the businesses are more worried about the move and the consequences for the trade. Most of the customers at present in the market are from central London.”

The City of London acquired the 40-acre Barking Power Station site in December.

Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chair at the City of London Corporation, said: “We intend to use this new site to offer more modern facilities and space for traders to grow, so that they can continue to support the capital’s food economy.

“We will soon be launching a public consultation on our preferred option. As part of this process, we will continue to engage with market tenants, traders and their customers, and other key stakeholders across London.”


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