Long read: ‘This is a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity that will create 3,500 jobs and £800m’ - Ilford MP, councillor and AM member back plans for Billingsgate, Smithfields and New Spitalfields markets to be rehomed in Redbridge
PUBLISHED: 19:43 01 March 2019
Plans for three iconic markets to move to Redbridge could be a “once in a lifetime opportunity” that will create thousands of jobs and boost the local economy.
The City of London Corporation is planning to stop Billingsgate, Smithfields and New Spitalfields markets from operating at their current locations and move them to a single site in the capital.
Redbridge is one of the contenders as it boasts fields spanning 162 acres in Hainault Road, Little Heath.
The idea is backed by Keith Prince, London Assembly Member for Redbridge and Havering who said the borough is the “natural choice” for the scheme.
“This site in Little Heath is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a long-lasting legacy for both the City of London markets and Redbridge,” he said
“The vision to bring on to one site, three large wholesale markets, retail space, education facilities as well as processing and distribution facilities is unprecedented on this scale.”
Mr Prince added that Redbridge has a proud agricultural history and the borough has a “unique opportunity” to educate the public about the “farm to fork” cycle.
Sustainable year-round food would grow just metres from where it would eventually be sold thanks to plans for on-site processing, packing and production facilities.
At a press conference today, (Friday, March 1) leader of the council, Councillor Jas Athwal said he is excited by the plans and “Redbridge is open for business”.
“Building upon the arrival of the Elizabeth Line later this year, we already have an established and bold strategy for growth in Redbridge that makes us the perfect partner to support the City of London’s vision for the future relocation of its markets,” he added.
“Local residents would welcome the creation of 3,500 jobs in the area as well as the opportunity for an on-site college aimed at training up new employees to work in the industry.”
Ilford North MP, Wes Streeting, also supports a re-homing of the markets in Redbridge and said there would be environmental benefits for putting the site in the borough
“I fully support the green credentials of the proposals and the innovative ideas such as biofuel technologies and food waste being recycled into compost for use by nearby farms,” he said
“By providing a site that is carbon positive - and has the capacity and transport links to secure the long-term future of the markets - this eco-development could also create thousands of jobs as well as bring around £800 million of investment to the local area.
“These proposals demonstrate a bold vision which we believe will resonate with market traders and customers alike.”
Not everyone, however, has expressed joy at the plans and Aldborough Hatch Defence Association said erecting a development on “sacrosanct” land will set a bad precedent.
“The Mayor of London described green belt land as sacrosanct and we believe it must not be built upon by anyone,” a spokesman for the group said.
“We will campaign against it.
“Once this happens, buildings will be built on lots of green belt land - you can keep those markets in London.”
The spokesman added that despite plans to widen the A12 junction if the move to Redbridge was given the green light, the road system would “never cope” with increased traffic when deliveries are made in the early hours of the morning.
The City of London Corporation requires a “long-term” base for all three wholesale markets and is currently in the process of short listing potential sites ahead of a public consultation in the summer.
Out of all the options, which includes a site in Barking and Dagenham, Waltham Forest, Newham and Thurrock, the green belt space in Redbridge is the only proposed scheme that is large enough to house all the traders on one level.
This is especially useful when deliveries are being made.
A City of London Corporation spokeswoman said the three markets are part of the very “fabric of London” and its number one priority is to maintain a top-quality market environment serving the capital.
“In order to secure their continued success and best possible future, following a strategic review, we are developing a programme for consolidating the City Corporation’s wholesale markets onto one site.
“As part of this programme we will be consulting with the market tenants, traders and their customers, and other key stakeholders to develop the operational requirements for a new market and take their views on the programme and potential sites, into account.
“We will evaluate a range of different options before a public consultation in 2019.”