Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Business as usual

A few weeks ago I received an email warning me that ‘they’ want to demolish Borough Market and urging me to sign a petition. I was understandably astonished and outraged at the idea of this historic market being destroyed; and I clicked the link to take me to the petition.

To come: An artist's impression of the new bridge (l) and new Borough High Street entrance into London Bridge (r)

The petition is protesting the building of a viaduct by Thameslink to extend and improve train services out of London Bridge station. The new bridge and entrance into London Bridge from Borough High Street is one of the most spectacular developments. A bit of digging, however, turned up no evidence to back up the claim that Borough Market is under any real threat. The expansion will involve knocking down some buildings, 20 of which are listed.

But the market itself isn’t one of those buildings. In fact the Trustees of Borough Market have moved to distance themselves from the petitions. In response to the current slew of websites, the Trustees have said that they aren’t supporting or promoting the petitions and that they haven’t been consulted over their wording or accuracy.

Philip Peart of Borough Market has been working with Network Rail to negotiate the best possible deal for the market. As he says, the management, traders and many customers of Borough Market will ensure that it remains safe, and he is somewhat upset about the petitions. He is bullish about the future of the market.

The developments will be disruptive, the traders will have to vacate the area for around 18 months and they are losing some of the buildings. The Trustees were served with a compulsory purchase order. These buildings will be knocked down and then rebuilt; they will be rented back to Borough Market. The market would prefer to own the buildings.

But the market will reap some benefits. Network Rail and Southwark Council will help with the temporary move. And Network Rail has agreed to give the market a makeover, with a new roof and new glass entrance. The market has two roofs, one of which is listed. Network Rail will remove this, restore it to its former glory and then replace it. The company will also replace the second roof. Even without the new viaduct, the traders would have to vacate the area to save the roof, and that would be at the market’s expense.

Preliminary works will begin July 2008, with the building starting January 2009. It’s a fairly straightforward project, and Philip Peart will be working with Network Rail to overcome any problems, according to him ‘the idea that the market is under threat is rubbish’. As much a possible, it will be business as usual for both traders and customers!

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