Friday, 8 April 2011

Update on New Covent Garden - A local alternative to Borough Market? - KOV Meeting April 7th 2011

Helen Evans from the Covent Garden Market Authority came to speak to the KOV forum about the future of the New Covent Garden Market in Vauxhall.  She first reminded everybody that the 3rd public exhibition on the market had been held in March, but wanted to give the key highlights on the plans for redeveloping the site.

Unbeknown to many, there are 200 companies and 2500 people on 57 acres between Wandsworth Road and Nine Elms that remain a "hidden secret" of the area behind a brick wall.  The site is being redeveloped because the building is older than 20 years and much of it is no longer fit for purpose, but there are many vibrant firms that need their futures secured.

* The northern site will be given to a private development partner to give Covent Garden the money to build on the rest of the site.

* The whole site is part of the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area Framework

* For the people that live in the area, one big pluses will be that part of the site will be developed into a "food focus for London".  There's an opportunity to showcase the amazing range of fruit, veg and flowers to the wider community.

* The second advantage is that the market site will be opened up and access provided through to the river.  Pascal Street (off the Wandsworth Road), which Sainsburys exit comes on to is a dead end that can be opened up.  There are two routes that could be opened up with holes punched into the railway arches.

* The whole redevelopment will be named The Garden.  The market has always been known as "The Garden" in the trade, and Helen Evans wasn't entirely sure about being the "new" Covent Market because it sounds rather like a washing powder.  In future, it will be referred to as The Garden.

 * The Covent Garden Market would be the start of the proposed linear park/road for the Nine Elms area.

One question was asked about the Northern Line Extension, to which Helen Evans responded, "to us, as a business, it brings absolutely no benefits whatsoever because... we have 200 businesses moving large boxes, and most of the business is vehicular... a tube station doesn't benefit us... it is not something we're particularly keen to have... it is being driven by other businesses in the area".

Another question concerned the width of the linear park which Helen Evans clarified would be 40-60 metres at that point.  (I feel on this point that it rather depends which document you read, but more of that in a later post).   In addition, the Sunday market would probably not be continued, but part of the Garden could be turned into a retail market.  It would likely be less of a general market, but with a stronger food focus.  Somebody asked whether it would be like Borough, but the response indicated that what was sold on site would be authentic to the local community eg. Portuguese .  Borough Market, it was pointed out, is held to be a tourist destination and somewhat expensive, but the heart of New Covent Garden market is fresh produce so it could be that the business built on site would be more accessible to the public of the local area.  It would thus likely have a different emphasis to Borough.

A number of questions were raised from the presentation.  I felt that Helen Evans was rather unfairly attacked, especially since she presented as a local business representative instead of sending the usual big name developers.  He presentation was extraordinarily clear and unrushed.  Unfortunately, people laid into her somewhat on matters that concerned the wider Vauxhall Nine Elms area rather than the New Covent Garden market, but her speech was remarkably clear and her vision for the market and passion for its involvement with the local community shone through.  The only point on which she was unable to provide clarification was the height of the tall buildings that would appear on the site that was to be given over to residential development.  (I always assumed that this would be sold to developers, but perhaps not).

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