An army of protesters dressed as Lady Gaga marched on Westminster parliament on Monday in a bid to protect London’s historic Smithfield General Market from being demolished.
The colourful crowd tried to persuade Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, to consider alternative plans in which Smithfield’s old Victorian buildings are rejuvenated.
The current plan would see a new development of glass and steel built upon the old site which would see 75 per cent of the original building demolished.
On the other hand, a counter proposal from the SAVE campaign would see the 1000-year-old market rebuilt, saving the architecture while offering quirky new opportunities for restaurants, office space and accommodation.
If the market was re-established there would be an estimated revenue rise of one per cent in London tourist spending, which would convert to £350m of economic benefit over ten years.
Richard Upton, chief executive of Cathedral Group, said: “Our analysis shows that a redevelopment scheme that keeps all the buildings at Smithfield is not only viable, but utterly financially deliverable. More importantly, once these buildings, which have an association with London’s history stretching back 1,000 years, are gone, they are gone.
"That part of London doesn’t need more office blocks, it needs to keep hold of the history that makes it such a great place to live and work. We have to fight very hard to keep its grit, heritage and culture. Smithfield is a critical part of London’s story.”
Marcus Binney CBE, president of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: “SAVE has been campaigning against the inappropriate development of some of the buildings that make up Smithfield Market for more than eight years. Taken together they are undoubtedly the finest collection of Victorian market halls in the UK, superbly designed and constructed.
"We believe the proposal currently being considered by the Secretary of State would do irreparable harm, not only to the buildings themselves but also to the surrounding area. What is at stake is a slice of London history that cannot be replaced. We call on the Secretary of State to refuse the application.”
Celebrities including Alan Bennett and Kristin Scott Thomas, as well as top restaurateurs Mark Hix and Fergus Henderson, have joined the call to save the building.