Things are beginning to change visibly around the City. There are a few more people on the streets, much more noisy construction work, vehicular traffic has increased and more shops are open and trading. I have lived in the City for 24 years and when I first came here the weekends were empty. It feels a bit like that now – not entirely dead but just reviving. That is clearly what the economy needs and the City Corporation and businesses are focussed on facilitating a safe working environment.
Black Lives Matter
The public killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis was abhorrent and the repercussions across the world have been felt in the City as well. The City of London Corporation issued a statement which included the words “The City of London Corporation is committed to equality, inclusivity and diversity and we stand in solidarity with BAME colleagues and communities. We understand it is not enough to say we are against racism but we have to work to eradicate all forms of racism in all that we do.” Many City businesses have made public statements and committed to action to eradicate racism, prejudice and inequality. This is clearly an important issue that must shape the working practices of the City and all communities. The City Corporation has set up a group to review in the widest terms what further action can be taken to tackle racism. Some focus has been on the visible signs of historic inequality and profit from the slave trade. Outside the Museum of London Docklands the statue of slave owner Robert Milligan was removed peaceably with the full support of the Museum and Tower Hamlets.
The City prepares
Work on the streets has started to introduce wider pavements and extra cycling road space with many barriers being erected across the City. Businesses are preparing with markings delineating 2 metre spaces as well testing for those arriving at work. Whilst some businesses have started a slow return, the opening of shops from 15th June with be a big signal. Alongside these indicators the Mansion House has taken the opportunity to mark the work of the frontline workers and placed a rainbow wreath on the front door.
Plans afoot for the new combined wholesale City markets
Notwithstanding pressing issues around the pandemic longer term planning continues. On 3rd June the City of London Corporation submitted a landmark planning application to the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham which will create a new home for Billingsgate, New Spitalfields and Smithfield markets at Dagenham Dock (the former Barking Reach Power Station).
The move will create the country’s largest wholesale food destination across 42 acres of industrial land – forming a new 21st century food centre for London, the South East and the UK. Not only will the move to Dagenham Dock secure the future of the three historic markets, it will also provide an economic boost to Barking and Dagenham, by reviving an abandoned industrial site – bringing new jobs and businesses to the area.
Relocating the market to Dagenham Dock will bring a number of environmental benefits too, with the potential to use the nearby rail network and River Thames to transfer goods and produce. This pioneering approach to food logistics will help to alleviate pressure on the A13 road.
The designs, which have been developed by architects Chetwoods, also present an opportunity to help combat the effects of climate change. The new development will be built with sustainable materials and using the latest environmental technology. As well as providing market tenants with new modern facilities to help protect their futures and grow, the plans will deliver a new food school, which will aim to train tomorrow’s market traders, butchers, fishmongers and fruiterers.
If consent is granted, the City Corporation will be required to submit a series of detailed planning applications, with the target of opening the new markets by 2025/2026.
Will you take the test?
The Lord Mayor joined others re-entering the workplace at Legal and General who started the day an immediate test for Covid19. This was set up by a charitable foundation, Covid Crisis Rescue (CCR), who want to test people in order to minimise the risk of a second wave of the disease.
City Police get new recruit
The City of London Police have been in the news quite a bit recently. Whilst face to face crime had dropped at the start of the lockdown, cybercrime and online fraud particularly Covid related have been frequently in the news with warnings not to be taken in by fake websites selling masks and gloves or risking your savings. More recently the City Police’s work with the Metropolitan Police has come into the news. The two forces with British Transport Police work collaboratively under a policing arrangement called Operation Benbow. This has meant our City cops are on the front line of the protests in Westminster, Whitehall and Parliament Square. Their latest recruit, who was impressed with this commitment is Penny Lancaster who is joining the ranks of the City of London Special Constabulary. Many will recognise her from celebrity magazines and reports as the wife of Sir Rod Stewart. As one wag said that’s sorted out the band for the Police Christmas bash. The City of London Police have nearly 100 special officers who give their time voluntarily and many bring exceptional skills much needed and used by the Force. For example some have played an important role in helping the Police to unpick tortuous financial frauds using their work experience as bankers, or others have helped in the areas of professional standards bringing some private commercial skills to the world of policing.