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As many of you will have read last week, the Corporation of London has announced its preference for the proposed relocation of New Spitalfields, Billingsgate and Smithfield markets to Barking. Paul Walker, chairman of the Spitalfields Market Tenants Association, gave his response on behalf of the market’s tenants in an article on fruitnet.com earlier this week.
On Friday, May 3rd, Chris Hutchinson, Paul’s deputy chairman, took the opportunity of the Lord Mayor Peter Estlin’s visit to the market to further outline the tenants’ perspective.
“Not since we were relocated here in 1991 has there been empty space in this market and growth has been amazing,” said Chris. “I remember very clearly the nerves we felt when we came across from Bishopsgate to New Spiatfields and wondering whether it would work or be successful. It was a time of great worry for tenants, but it’s just worked incredibly well.
“Our relationship with the Corporation of London has been grand all the way through,” he added. “But we keep reading stuff in the press that tells us apparently we are moving and the press seems to know even more about this than possibly the Corporation, I’d dare to suggest. I don’t know what the emotion would be to describe it, but it’s something that could be very exciting. For years, I’ve been talking with David Smith about the potential for a composite market in London and the Corporation, with its ownership of the real estate on which the meat and fish markets trade, as well as this market, could not be in a better position to make this happen.
“It’s a deal that could go very well [financially] for the Corporation of London, but we know our position as tenants – we are lobbyists trying to get the best deal we can and very importantly, the best location we can. This is a magnificent site here, but we have serious concerns about where the market is going to go. There are a lot of people in this market who need convincing and the markets committee and the Corporation’s team at the market have some serious work to do. I know they have begun to work and that they will come up with a suitable deal that will successfully join the three markets in a new venture.”
The Lord Mayor responded: “The view of the City is that we need to keep looking at what we’re doing and I think your point about bringing the markets together seems to be a desirable outcome. It is down to the markets committee to work out the logistics of how we go about that – do we go further out, do we see if we can do a deal to stay here?
“Ultimately, we have to go through the consultation processes, but I hope that whatever outcome we achieve, it is something that takes us forward. In practice, it is a question of looking at the dynamics of the marketplace. The reality is there is competition all around us and we need to look at how we [continue to] deliver really high quality produce in a practical way that also enables people to make a livelihood. That is really important.”