Billingsgate, along with meat market Smithfield Market is expected to move from central London by 2025.
The City of London Corporation – the governing body of the Square Mile, the financial district and historic centre of London- has said it plans to consolidate Billingsgate Market, Smithfield Market and New Spitalfields to the site of an old power station in Barking Reach, Dagenham, reports the BBC.
The UK’s largest inland fish market sells around 25,000 tonnes of products through its East End merchants each year under the shadow of Canary Wharf’s skyscrapers. Confusingly, Billingsgate Market isn’t actually in Billingsgate. It moved to its current location to the West India Docks in Poplar in 1982.
The site has had some famous – or rather infamous – workers including East End gangsters the Krays. Reggie Kray worked as a salesman while Ronnie collected empty fish boxes.
In a phone call to SalmonBusiness, owner of Bobby’s Fish Scott Unwin – a family run fresh fish merchant at Billingsgate – said that he was shocked by the news.
“We’ve been in the dark,” said Unwin. “They’ve been talking about it for a while, but we only got an email on Saturday morning. It’s a bit of a shock. Nobody wants to move but the market needed a revamp.”
On the idea that the new site will consolidate all of the meat, fish and veg markets, Unwin wasn’t 100 per cent convinced, adding: “We’re wondering if it’s going to be a big white elephant.”
On new rents, the veteran seller, whose father Bobby started the business at the old site at Lower Thames Street (which at the time was well-placed for merchant ships) – said that he had heard nothing about it. “They put the rents up here every six months but they (City of London Corporation) haven’t spent money on the building.”
Unwin explained that Billingsgate – at the Isle Of Dogs – is full of old characters and the move would be difficult on the “older folk”.
On salmon, Unwin complained that currently, the price was “up and down at the moment”.
SalmonBusiness has contacted The City of London Corporation for comment.