As promised, I have been looking through the detail of Greenwich Hospital's proposal to erect a temporary market and shops in the grounds of the Naval College, while it redevelops the existing market into a modern precinct. The temporary market is not just intimately linked to that highly controversial plan (planning permission for the main market redevelopment will not be granted unless the temporary market is also allowed.) It is also likely to be rather contentious in its own right.
The proposed temporary market – intended to be in place for two years –will be a somewhat featureless, steel structure, seven metres (22ft) high at its highest point. It will have transparent PVC ends, UPVC doors, PVC roofing and a raised, decked floor. The market stalls will be inside this enclosed, lockable marquee-like building.
A row of Portacabin-like structures will be tacked on to the sides of the main structure to house six shops (the other 13 currently in the buildings surrounding market will not be accommodated at the temporary site), and this will be the view of the temporary market that greets most visitors.
Three issues strike me as controversial.
1. The loss of open space.
The temporary market buildings will take up 1,440 square metres of Metropolitan Open Land – intended, in the words of Greenwich Council’s planning policy, as an “open space of strategic importance” which must be “maintained and [its] character safeguarded from built development.” Almost no building of any kind is ever allowed on MOL. And this isn’t just any metropolitan open land, either – it is a prominent part of England’s finest ensemble of Grade I listed Baroque buildings, a scheduled ancient monument and part of one of only four Unesco World Heritage sites in London.
The Mayor’s London Plan – the definitive statement of his own planning policy – is also completely clear. There is a “presumption against inappropriate development of MOL,” with “the same level of protection as the green belt. Essential facilities for appropriate uses will only be acceptable where they do not have an adverse impact on the openness of MOL.”
Surely a bit of a show-stopper? In 2007, even Greenwich Council thought so – when it rejected a proposal for a temporary giant wheel on the same site. But it is a Government planning inspector’s verdict, rejecting that decision on appeal and allowing the wheel to be built, on which the Hospital is now relying.
The inspector said that, because the wheel was temporary, “its installation for a summer’s use would cause no permanent loss of openness.” That is the precedent the Hospital is hoping to use for the market. But the inspector also said that his decision was “finely balanced” – and there are some fundamental differences in the two proposals which might tip the balance the other way. The wheel’s footprint was smaller. It was only in place for three months, rather than two years (the inspector cited the “short period” of the wheel’s operation as a key factor in his decision to allow it.”) And, after the initial erecting period, it was never going to draw any motor traffic. Which brings me to the second problem…
2. The surroundings of the Cutty Sark will be turned into a car park.
The servicing of the market – the daily bringing in and out of merchandise, and the removal of waste - will take place right by the Cutty Sark. The pavement on the eastern side of the ship will be converted into a 14-space loading bay. Every day the market is open, the entire space will be filled with traders’ and service vehicles.
Why should this worry us? The eastern side of the Cutty Sark is a building site. But it won’t be for much longer. The ship is scheduled to reopen, restored and transformed into a visitor attraction, in summer 2010 –five months after the temporary market is due to open. It might put a bit of a dampener on the proceedings if visitors find they’re sharing their space with the municipal dustcarts.
3. Trees will be lost – and possibly more than the developers say.
The developers admit that two trees will be cut down. As for the other trees on this densely-wooded site, the buildings are supposed to go round the other trees on this quite densely-wooded site. But look again at that picture. It looks pretty tight to me. Are we sure all those trees are going to make it? Even if they do, what about the watering, with a building on top of their root systems?
You still have time to object to this development – and thus, also, to the market redevelopment as a whole. I gave the wrong email address last week – thanks to one of my eagle-eyed commenters for pointing it out. It’s email@example.com – application reference number 09/1338/F – and you need to give your home address. Happy commenting!