£12 million vision for a more welcoming Smithfield now 10 years away

Plans to pedestrianise and green streets and spaces in front of Smithfield Market and Barts Hospital will not be fully realised for ten years, according to a City of London committee report.

The area will become an international destination when the new Museum of London opens 2026/28.

Public realm designs developed by Hawkins\Brown after a 2020 competition were linked with plans to reimagine use of the Meat Market buildings following relocation of trading to Dagenham, expected in 2028/29.

Last year the designs prompted the headline “London park three times size of Trafalgar Square could be created outside Elizabeth line station”.

Below – the area today and as visualised by Hawkins\Brown.

The designs also covered the area around the new site of the Museum of London, already under development to the west.

The HawkinsBrown website says that “following the opening of the Elizabeth Line and the forthcoming relocation of the Museum of London, the area from Farringdon Street to Aldersgate will be transformed into a series of interconnected pedestrian-friendly multi-functional and inclusive public spaces”.

Adding “soon people will take priority over cars and lorries, as roads are replaced with footpaths and landscaping, creating healthier, well-lit and safer streets”.

The Corporation’s 2020 news release said:

“This project will deliver exceptional new public spaces across the whole Smithfield area which runs from Farringdon Street to Aldersgate. The new public realm will transform the pedestrian experience by replacing some of the existing road network with new footpaths and landscaping – creating healthier, well-lit and safer streets, while helping to improve air quality by reducing emissions from traffic.”

However a report to next week’s Streets and Walkways sub committee says that work will now be undertaken as two projects, and require further design work. The first project will be around the Museum site, Snow Hill, Giltspur, Hosier and Cock Lane, followed by work in front of the main market buildings, and the Rotunda Garden. The historic frontage of Barts Hospital is to the south east. The estimated costs of the second project is £12 million.

The decision to split the public realm developments arises from delays in the Museum development, the continuing operation of the meat market and the complexity of relating the two. In addition:

“Post move, the re-use of the (market) building is yet to be established, so we do not yet know what is required from the highways for any future redevelopment, in particular from East Poultry Avenue”.

The report says:

“The changes in approach to programme described above mean that whilst the overall strategy for the area will be kept, the delivery of the strategy will need to be completed in phases which will be consecutive in nature. This means from a governance perspective some of the work will be completed before other areas are fully designed, but the concept and the vision for the area as a whole remains the same. It is unlikely that the full public realm vision for the area will be completed before mid 2030”.

The first part of the Museum, in the former General Market, will open in 2026, with a second part in the former Poultry Market opening in 2028. Here’s my blog post after a recent visit.

The committee report suggests “that further design work on Long Lane, linking the new Elizabeth line entrance to the MoL is also developed further to facilitate a more accessible and comfortable journey for people walking”.

Below – Long Lane, with the Elizabeth Line on the right. Market buildings middle distance and new Museum site beyond.

Smithfield will become an international attraction when the Museum opens … only two stops from Paris as director Sharon Ament told the EC1 Echo.

Concerns there are likely to be that Smithfield will be ready to welcome visitors in appropriate style when the Museum opens. Below – Museum site at present.

The committee reports are complex and detailed, and I hope I have interpreted correctly. I’ll amend if not.

I think it would be helpful if the City Corporation could provide an updated public briefing on what is planned for the area, and the current degree of confidence about the Market moving to Dagenham in 2028/29.

Perhaps we need a new Manifesto for Smithfield Square. Here’s one published by Farrells in 2019.

Update. You can view discussion of these plans at Streets and Walkways committee on July 9 on YouTube. The committee heard that 2-3 million people a year are expected to visit the new London Museum, and it could be more. They will be encouraged to use Farringdon station exit for the Elizabeth Line, rather than the one in Long Lane, because of delays in pedestrianising the route from there to the Museum until the Meat Market moves.

Councillor Brendan Barns asked whether the move of the Meat Market in 2028 was realistic or whether it might be later. He was told that was “above the pay grade” of the committee – so no information given one way or the other.

Committee members were assured of close collaboration between the Corporation and BID public realm study.

The committee also heard that a building known as The Annex, formerly part of the market, will be developed separately from the Museum as a commercial scheme. Public realm design work will take that into account. I found this information about the Annex.

“Located to the southwest of the Smithfield Market area, the site comprises four Victorian market trading and storage spaces known historically as The Fish Market, the Red House, Engine House and Iron Mountain.” 

There is a detailed description of all Market buildings on the excellent blog A London Inheritance.

Update: I’ve posted a piece about The Annex Livery Companies could showcase craft skills next to new London Museum, suggests City councillor

4 thoughts on “£12 million vision for a more welcoming Smithfield now 10 years away

  1. Thanks, David, for this. The area is at the moment a dreadful mess, so I welcome almost any scheme that will improve it and help to make the London Museum one of the best museums in the world – and the surrounding area most attractive and useful for both residents, visitors and local businesses and their workers.
    However, I think it will cost a lost more than £12 million the way things are going – but the final should be worth it in the long run.

  2. Thanks John – I think the immediate mess around the Museum site will be dealt with in the first phase project. The bigger £12 million or more challenge is the rest of Smithfield. As you say, worth doing.

  3. The Court is wobbling on the whole HawkinsBrown concept of “soon people will take priority over cars and lorries as roads are replaced with footpaths and landscaping, creating healthier, well-lit and safer streets”. After a 7 year absence of Black Cabs from 7am to 7pm at Bank Junction, when we had a complete absence of traffic except buses, there will be a trial of readmitting Black Cabs. Why? Because some privileged people are frustrated with the extra 3 to 9 minutes it takes for their cab drivers to use alternative longer east/west routes such as London Wall. The reintroduction of Black Cabs in the most direct route will cause signalling delays for bus passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.

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