Oh Come All Ye Faithful!
Come to Kirkgate Market
Sing ye, oh sing ye our Christmas songs
Here is our songbook, come and join our sing-song
Oh come support the traders, oh come and praise the market
Oh come and tell the Council they’ve got it wrong!
FoLKM will be singing at the main entrance to Kirkgate Market on Monday 22nd December from 12:30pm. Come and join us!
Councillor Scrooge sat in his counting house, overcome with generosity. “I have bled Kirkgate Market dry for 20 years,” he thought, “now is the time to pay it back. I shall borrow 12 million pounds and watch the money roll in even faster when I refurbish it to a high standard and put up the rents.”
That night Scrooge was visited by the Spirit of Markets Past. He was swept into a scene of stupendous bustle, as shoppers dashed hither and thither, stuffing their bags, baskets and trollies with all manner of meat, fruit, vegetables, cakes, sweets and toys. The stallholders were full of merriment and cheerful banter. For it was Christmas, the season of high spending. He saw his contituents, low-paid Bob Cratchit and disabled Tiny Tim, loading their bags with festive fare for their annual celebration.
The next night Scrooge was visited by a more austere spectre: the Spirit of Markets Present. As he wandered through the echoing halls of shuttered stalls, he heard traders complaining that they were being moved to new stalls where they could not afford the rents or the wherewithal to re-equip them, and he saw customers searching for cheap cabbages and cut-price pies.
“They are suffering from austerity, unemployment, zero-hours contracts, the bedroom tax and universal credit,” said the spirit, “so they have to watch their spending. Poor Tiny Tim is finding it hard to manage on his employment support allowance and Bob Cratchit is struggling on the minimum wage.”
Are there no food banks? Are there no pound shops?, said Councillor Scrooge.
On the third night the Spirit of Markets Future manifested itself
“At last!” thought Councillor Scrooge, “I shall see my grand plans come to fruition. A happy place with neat and tidy stalls, selling all kinds of goods to a grateful population. There will be non-stop entertainments in the 1976 hall for people to enjoy while they refresh themselves at the cafes or browse among the day traders’ barrows.”
But he was met by a scene of appalling desolation. The 1976 and 1981 halls were gone, demolished to build offices and mean blocks of flats. The outside market was a car park. Only the 1875 hall remained, now rebranded as the Victoria Gate Heritage Experience and selling luxury goods at eye-watering prices. Even the Council Crest was gone.
“What happened?” asked Councillor Scrooge in despair.
“It worked for a while,” said the Spirit of Markets Future, “But once the rents were put up, the usual customers could not afford the prices and the high-spending John Lewis and Victoria Gate customers were never comfortable buying goods without a recognisable brand name. So the prettier parts of the market were bequeathed to Hammersons and the rest was sold off to pay back the 12 million pound loan. Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim are reduced to scouring the discount sector for sell-by-date bargains and have lost the spirit of community that the market provided.”
The next morning Councillor Scrooge awoke a changed man. “I must undo all that I have done,” he said, “The market is an asset to the community and must be preserved.”
But it was too late. The Council had already approved the plans with hardly any discussion.
God help us every one!
FOLKM are objecting to this planning application on the grounds that it fails to properly consider the negative social impact of its proposed redevelopment. To be sure, we are in favour of much needed investment in the building, but our worry is how the change in the BUILDING will affect PEOPLE. The need to consider this social impact is not just driven by a sense fairness but is a fundamental legal duty on the public sector. The council is obliged to carefully consider how any changes will impact particularly on “protected categories” which include: the elderly, women, those with disabilities, ethnic minorities all of whom are more likely to be in low incomes.
It’s evident that these are the groups that currently benefit particularly from the Market economically and socially and they are the ones that the council is legally responsible to protect from any negative impacts.
What do we think the negative impacts will be?
- The majority of traders that have been forced to move will face higher rents. FACT. For example Butchers now paying £34.5 psf will have to pay £47.5. (more than 35% increase)
- Council documents state that the refurbishment is being seen as an opportunity to increase income and that rents will increase to reflect this work.
- As a result Higher rents in the redeveloped Market will drive traders and those more vulnerable customers out.
- Dozens of traders are being displaced by this redevelopment as existing businesses don’t find a new appropriate stall at an affordable rent. The loss of particular traders will of course have an impact on those groups who rely on them.
Councillors will know that after we submitted our objection the council was asked to re-write their Equality Impact Assessment. However the revised impact assessment still does not offer any guarantees to mitigate against these negative impacts on vulnerable communities, particularly when it comes to the hundreds of thousands of market users.
FOLKM (and many others) are genuinely worried about the gentrification of the Market and we know this term has become quite controversial. To be sure, we know that gentrification is not something that any local authority sets out to do. However, as lots of research shows redevelopment of any building or area can easily lead to gentrification if robust measures are not put against it. In numerous meetings, communications and documents we have discussed with market management how changes in the building, rents, composition of traders can marginalise those more vulnerable groups in Leeds but there has been no action taken to even acknowledge this risk. The council is in denial. Just saying “we don’t want to gentrify” the Market won’t protect those in lower incomes that rely on it.
But the council is not only ignoring a risk is also ignoring an opportunity. 100,000 people visit the Market every week many of which come from the most deprived wards in Leeds. They have little money to spend on food, they are experiencing fuel poverty, isolation, multiple health inequalities, learning difficulties. These are the people that the council has statutory obligations towards and the Market is now a place to reach them but we should protect and build on this.
FOLKM want to see investment and improvement in the Markets BUILDING but not at the expense of the PEOPLE that use and work in the Market. What we are saying is put the PEOPLE first, not the BUILIDNG.
One of the issues that worry most people is whether rents will be higher once the redevelopment project is complete.
Leeds City Council has explained that “there is no intention” to raise rents in “existing units” in Kirkgate Market. This does not actually answer the issue as the council is only referring here to traders that will not have to move because of the redevelopment. But what will happen to those affected by the redevelopment?
- Most traders who are forcibly displaced and have to find a new stall will find that most of the offered stalls’ rents will be higher. For example the butchers moving from the existing Butchers row to the new Fresh Food area will have to pay around 30% more rent on top of costs for fitting their new stall (for which they will get some help from the council).
- We don’t know yet the rents for the proposed new Daily Covered Market (which replaces the 1976 hall fixed stalls) but previous documents from the council suggest that this space “Can be let at a premium thereby safeguarding rental income” (Investment Case, page 8 )
- Again we don’t know what rents would be like in the new “Kirkgate Vilage” area but this area is clearly seen as an area with an “opportunity to create further income” (Investment Case, p.19) becoming a “quality shopping street” to attract Victoria Gate shoppers.
All this suggest that for most of the displaced traders that find a new stall, rents will be higher. And for probably all the new traders in the covered hall and Kirkgate Village rents will be higher than there had been before. Overall there will be higher rents in the new areas of the Market which will the stepping stone to ask for increments in the future.
Is this the start of gentrification?
What is happening to traders who would be losing their stall as part of the Kirkgate Market redevelopment project?
The big changes proposed for Kirkgate Market amount to dozens of traders, (perhaps up to 50 or more -the council has never revealed this figure), being permanently or temporarily displaced. As a result, FOLKM knows, at least more than half of them are leaving the market.
The council claims that they are trying to relocate them in phases into the existing vacant units in the Market but there are not as many empty units as traders displaced. A bidding process is taking place where only the displaced traders are allowed to participate. However this is riddled with problems and the bidding process itself was been described as “very poor” by one of the traders. Here are some of the problems:
- Some stalls have been in their current location for more than 30 years and changing location in the Market is a very big risk.
- What is more it is very difficult to find a same size unit which will mean substantially changing the business and perhaps letting staff go.
- Some of the offered units have been empty for a long time which reflects their poor location.
- It is also hard for traders to choose a new location without knowing how that new stall will perform in the new refurbished market.
And this is just for those with “permanent” leases. It is unclear what is happening to those in temporary leases.
- 1976 hall – most stalls going from here – 114 permanent stalls are being removed to be replaced by a – yet undetermined – daily covered market with pop-up stalls, cafes and events area. All traders from the 1976 hall door down (where Greggs is- included) have given notice
- Butcher’s road – This will be demolished and will be developed by a private developer in a separate project. It will be part of a “Kirkgate Village” new concept opening late hours and developed to lure in shoppers from the future posh shopping centre “Victoria Gate”. All traders from here will have to move elsewhere; Butchers should move to the newly refurbished “Fresh produce area”, see below.
- Shops facing George Street – All to be demolished as part of the “Kirkgate Village” project privately developed, see above. Still looking for a private developer.
- Fish and Game Row – This area together with Row 2 will become a new “Fresh produce area”. To refurbish this area (heavy drains work needs doing) all current traders trading with food from Fish and Game Row will be temporarily displaced to Butchers row. It is unclear for how long. Some current traders in this new fresh produce area do not trade with food now (shoe and clothing shops for example) and will have to move elsewhere. It is unclear yet if any of the existing Butchers will actually move to the new area.
- 1981 hall – 2 big blocks with several stalls to be demolished to make a new route. Traders here to be displaced.
What is happening to all these traders? We will be writing about this – so follow our blog to find out more and come to the plans panel meeting on Thursday 11th Dec 1.30 at Civic Hall to find out. Information about this meeting here: http://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=947&MId=6988&Ver=4
There is a proposed £12.3m redevelopment project to take place in Kirkgate Market. Leeds City submitted a planning application in the summer. Friends of Kirkgate Market submitted an objection as we don’t believe the social and economic impacts of this redevelopment have been properly taken into consideration.
We will be repeating these concerns at the plans panel meeting Thursday 11th December, which starts at 1.30 pm in Civic Hall. Here is the information. http://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=947&MId=6988&Ver=4
Other members of the public and traders who submitted objections are also being invited to speak.
Everyone is invited to come. So come and support fellow Kirkgate Market lovers and traders