Is Leeds Kirkgate Market the “Albert square” of the North?
You don’t need to watch TV to catch the latest drama of traders versus council in Leeds’ own Kirkgate Market soap opera.
But if you do tune in to Eastenders you would be forgiven for confusing fact and fiction as the traders in the popular Walford market that have been at the centre of the series and Albert Square community for decades are in danger of being evicted as the area is forced to become more gentrified.
The similarities could not be more uncanny:
- Council trying to get away with stuff without people noticing
- Council organising a meeting at short notice knowing that it will be difficult for traders to attend.
- Bad management – trying to trick traders and refusing to give respect and answer questions
- Generations of traders’ livelihoods being dismantled
- Traders and community standing up for their rights.
- Street market in the way of modernisation and progress
The Eastenders set is now seen as outmoded as it does not reflect the gentrifying of this area of London and the “Shoreditch effect” that is attracting hipsters to the area. And for the new editors of the series, Walford Market is clearly standing in the way of this necessary “change”. The Guardian, in a parody of how to “modernise” Eastenders, hits on what it actually looks like Leeds City Council’s plan to bring Leeds Kirkgate Market in line with the “Victoria Gate” effect… Just replace Walford with Kirkgate:
Make the market middle class
With its old-skool stalls and single mums in silver puffa jackets, Walford market is outmoded and off-message. Bring it bang on-trend by relaunching as a farmer’s market selling line-caught fish, artisan cheeses, rustic loaves and organic veg covered in mud. Add a street food van, doing pulled pork and cronuts. Winston’s CD stall could deal in rare vinyl, while Kat ‘n’ Bianca’s naff fashion emporium could peddle tastefully curated vintage pieces. Brunch and browse!
Finally, Councillor Lewis has responded to all the points we made in New Market management proposals: a culture change or more of the same?
- The traders themselves have not been involved in the drafting of this paper and have only been marginally involved in the discussions around new management proposals.
The Council had many discussions with NMTF trader representatives on the potential management arrangements during the feasibility stage in which we explored in full with the traders, at their request, the potential for a social enterprise as a management option, but ultimately traders did not elect to progress this. Officers set up trader consultation sessions, which unfortunately were not well attended, and engaged extensively with traders through newsletters and avenues available to the wider public throughout the feasibility stage prior to making a recommendation to Executive Board in March 2013. The range of consultation undertaken during that phase of the project is set out in the report which is in your possession. In the case of the management options report, Executive Board in March 2013 approved in principle the format which had been arrived at by extensive consultation with third parties, and requested officers to work up the required detail, which was the subject of the report to the Council’s Executive Board in December 2013.
- The proposed new structure will be “informal” will not actually have decision making powers but “advisory”. How will this be different to the Market Forum which did not work?
In terms of its structure it does have some similarities with the Market Forum in that there will be cross-party political representation and representation by elected trader representatives. It is, however, important to note that whilst for the constitutional reasons set out in the report, the new Advisory Board will not be able to take decisions on behalf of the Council, it will be officially recognised as an Advisory Board and the Council will have regard to its advice in its decision making process. The inclusion of up to 3 independent advisers should bring a different, external perspective to the new structure allowing for more informed debate and decision making.
- Traders will be outnumbered by politicians who have none or little expertise in running a Market.
The Council must have a majority control of the Advisory Board and, I am sure that all political parties will be keen to nominate members to the Board who have a genuine interest in the Markets. It is important that all members of the new Board join with a commitment to work together with each other and with officers to get the best outcome for Kirkgate Market.
- The new management structure will come in too late to have a significant impact on the redevelopment proposal and new lease arrangements and instead relegated to advise during the commencement of the actual works.
It is intended that the Advisory Board will be set up by June 2014. The Council is unlikely to secure planning consent until November 2014. Whilst the Council has already approved new lease arrangements and the format of the new management arrangements, the Advisory Board could have a very significant role working with the Council on the phasing of the works and relocation of tenants, and particularly, how the Market can continue to run effectively, attract customers and promote itself during the redevelopment works.
- The proposed independent advisers all seem to be from a commercial/marketing background with no consideration given to experts on social inclusion, social services, vulnerable groups.
The range of skills presented in the report are indicative only and reflect what a major shopping destination in a major city may wish to focus on. However, the report also recommended that the traders and Elected Members could be appointed first and then take part in the recruitment of independent advisers, to ensure they get the most appropriate ‘fit’ with agreed and identified gaps in skills provision.
- There is a lost opportunity to understand the Market as a Public Service which is essential to those more vulnerable.
By deciding to keep the management arrangements as ‘wholly owned’ by the City Council, the Council is underlining its commitment to ensuring that these values are never lost.
Nice quotation marks around “wholly owned” and interesting that it only applies to “management arrangements”. Comments, anyone?
- The whole report talks about buildings and stalls but not the people behind the stalls and how will they be affected.
Councillor Lewis replied:
What is important is that there is ongoing dialogue with the tenants, through information and feedback sessions, informal discussions and newsletters, all of which is very much part of our current programme of activity.
- The indicative strategic programme, item 3.6, is a technical timetable but no clear sense of what it means for traders or customers.
The details contained in the report represent the best information in respect of the development programme at the time the report was prepared. The report clearly states that the programme remains subject to change as the scheme proposals develop and, as more detailed information becomes available such information will be shared directly with the traders in the first instance.
- The George Street part of the Market will be turned into an extension of the Victoria Gate and handed over to a private developer with the council leasing back the ground floor.
Whilst it is acknowledged that the Council is seeking a developer for the George Street frontage and that the upper floors of any development would more than likely rest with the private developer, the ground and first floor accommodation will remain under the direct control of the City Council and the letting of such units will have regard to the benefits the occupiers will bring to the Market. It is important that the Market has a new frontage with the adjacent Victoria Gate development, in order to improve connectivity and footfall between the two developments
- Traders are clearly not involved in the drawing up of any of these redevelopment plans but periodically “informed” in meetings.
It is acknowledged that the traders are not involved on a day to day basis in developing the scheme proposals. However, the Council does and will continue to engage with the traders at appropriate points in the design process and will endeavour to incorporate feedback that adds value to the project.
- There is absolutely no mention of the key role that the Market has for those in low income in the city and how this redevelopment will affect them. In previous reports (investment case document for the Feasibility study) we read that the redevelopment would allow the council to charge higher rents in certain areas of the Market and the proposed 1976 is described as “niche” and “can be let at a premium” (investment case, para 5.10). Higher rents will mean higher prices.
The key to the success of the Market involves building on its existing customer base and attracting new customers into the Market. The proposals being developed have this aim at the core of their thinking
Hmm, it looks like Councillor Lewis has evaded all our questions here! Tell us what is at the core of your thinking…
- To date we have not seen a business/economic case for the proposed “Covered daily Market” that will replace existing businesses by an uncertain demand of “pop up” stalls.
Councillor Lewis replied:
What cannot be disputed is that the current situation in the 1976 hall is not sustainable and change is needed. The tenants agree. A covered daily market allows for a constantly changing offer which can add interest to the market, especially with the addition of the events space, creating a ‘destination’ which draws visitors through the market thus creating footfall to existing businesses.
Does the current outdoor market not create a constantly changing offer? Let us know in the comments below.
- How many stalls will go with the reconfiguration of the 1981 and 1976 halls, the new pedestrian route and George St reconfiguration?
Councillor Lewis replied:
The precise number of stalls affected by the proposed works has yet to be determined and will only be established at completion of the RIBA Stage D design proposals. Whilst it is acknowledged that stalls will be removed for example in the 1976 Hall, they will be replaced by significant new trading opportunities afforded by the daily covered market, whilst it is also proposed that the shop units on the George Street frontage will be replaced by new retail units. In the 1981 Hall, a small number of units will be affected by the proposals to improve connectivity both with the adjacent Victoria Gate development and within the Market itself.
- How many businesses will be moved and hence lose their existing tenancies?
As detailed above the precise number of businesses to be moved has yet to be identified and will only be established at completion of the Stage D design proposals.
- How will new stalls be allocated to existing traders? Will there be a re-selection process as proposed by the previous Quarterbridge report or as it has happened in other markets (eg Blackburn)? What will be the criteria for “re-selecting” traders?
This is currently under consideration and it is proposed that the criteria will be shared with the traders in the first instance.
So what exactly do you reckon will happen to the traders?
- Reading in between the lines we see that, as we knew already, many traders will lose their business or will be reallocated with their leases being terminated and replaced. But there is no clear explanation of the true cost of this redevelopment for traders and how the council will make sure that those more vulnerable traders and customers will not suffer. This does not correspond with paragraph 3.2 statement that “the proposals must reinforce existing business activity in the Market” as well as new traders and customers.
Councillor Lewis replied:
The City Council does not accept that anything can or should be read in between the lines. The Council is currently working through the implications of the redevelopment with groups of traders in each area affected, and the discussions have been well attended with informed discussion taking place. The Council appreciates that there will be a greater impact in certain areas of the Market, such as the 1976 hall and Butchers Row, with lesser impacts in other areas and we are making this clear to the traders at every opportunity. Once the Council has formally approved the RIBA Stage D proposals, officers will be in a position to talk to individual traders about their options and agree with them what the outcome will be.
Over to you.
- It is good to see that the leaking roof and ventilation problems will be tackled. Unclear how though as no specific details or costings.
Councillor Lewis answered:
The works form an integral part of the project and the funding for these works is contained within the proposed budget for the project. The flat roof of the 1976 and 1981 halls will be fully sealed and overlaid with a long life waterproof membrane, whilst the ventilation works will be programmed to minimise disruption. Further detail of the proposed works will be contained in the Stage D report currently being prepared by the Council’s retained design team.
Tell us what you think.