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LONDON-Controversial plans for a development on the edge of London’s historic Smithfield meat market got the go-ahead yesterday by the City of London Corp. The project, with more than 350,000 sf of offices and ground-floor retail, will replace a vacant building on the western side of Smithfield.

Called the General Market, it was built in 1883, bombed during the Second World War and rebuilt unsuccessfully in the 1950s. It has stood empty since 1999. The existing meat market complex remains unaffected by the proposed redevelopment.

Campaigning groups had tried to gain a conservation order for the General Market building, arguing that it forms part of Britain’s most impressive group of market buildings. But the government refused to grant one and the City of London Corp., which owns the freehold, agreed to grant planning consent to developer Thornfield Properties. If the plans are ratified by the government, demolition of the historic site could begin in three weeks.

But the new scheme, designed by US architect Kohn Pedersen Fox, has prompted criticism from heritage campaigners. They argue that Smithfield market is one of the UK’s few historic markets not to have moved. It has been used over the centuries as London’s main livestock market and also for public executions.Save Britain’s Heritage last year won a partial victory by persuading the government to place a conservation order on part of the site–a fish market called the Red House. As a result, Thornfield had to scrap its original 600,000-sf plan.

English Heritage has criticized the proposed development as “too big and too brutalist” but rejected five opportunities to call for the building to be added to the list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest.

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