New details of the Kirkgate Market redevelopment project have just been published this afternoon (see below). They include important changes to the indoor Market, the potential displacement of traders but also new management models and types of leases as well as a response to our Deputation speech
These proposals will be discussed at the next Leeds City Council Executive Board meeting (the highest decision making body in the council) on the 18th of Dec at 1pm, Civic Hall. The meeting is open to the public.
FOLKM will be reading the published documents in detail but want to invite everyone out there to send us comments and ideas on how you fell these plans will affect the Market.
We will be sending comments and questions to local Councillors ahead of the Executive Board meeting next Wednesday. So send us your thoughts so we can raise them.
Plus some a couple of sketches of how George Street could look like after the redevelopment- can anyone spot the current businesses???
Never mind the High Street clones; here’s the People’s Market. NB for a better copy go to http://leedskirkgatemarket.com/Xmasad.htm
Kay Sharma has been trading in Leeds Kirkgate Market since 1973 but closed her business last week, end of November 2013. Richard Edwards from BBC radio Leeds talked to her – Listen here. We also spoke to Kay and she told us about her life in the Market.
After 40 years trading in ladies fashion she feels she cannot sustain her business anymore. Her stall is in the 1976 hall, opposite an empty row of stalls. She reckons that the decline in the Market and her business started 10 years when the council “let the Market go”. 10 years of lack of investment and promises for changes that have never happened. Now, by no wrongdoing of herself her business has been blighted and she has been forcibly retired. After 40 years in the trade, what was the Market management reaction when she handed in her notice? They sent a standard letter asking her to vacate her stall by the last day of her contract. No visit from the Manager to thank for her rent for 40 years and inquiry if she would need anything, no card or kind letter. Just empty your stall. She had to ask for extra time to be able to empty all her goods after her last trading day.
Kay started trading with her husband in 1968 in various regional outdoor markets but settled for Kirkgate Market in 1973. At that time she took a lease which is no longer available to new tenants that would allow her to pass on or sell her business, (known as having the right of assignment in perpetuity) something she thought could come in handy when retiring. Now, however, as the Market has deteriorated, it would be very difficult to sell this business so she will retire empty handed. Now, however, as the Market has deteriorated, it would be very difficult to sell this business so she will retire empty handed. In 1975 she lost everything in the Market fire, 12 days before Christmas. In a meeting outside the next day the Council promised to rebuild the same Market. Instead they rebuilt the 1976/81 halls which were initially intended to be temporary, and a big sign saying “temporary Market” was left for years. In the new halls Kay was given a smaller stall and the way the halls were built it meant they were too cold and too hot. Later, few years ago, Kay was offered a better stall at the top of the 1976, near a door. However in the move she was not told she would lose part of her tenancy rights.
She has very fond memories of her life in the Market, especially her customers which in her interview with Radio Leeds she refers to as “her ladies”. She doesn’t actually regard them as customers but acquaintances and friends, who if she closed for a few days, would come and ask is she was all right. She developed special relationships with her customers by taking time to speak to them and find specific fashion items that they would like. She carefully chooses her stock, knowing her customer base. She sells skirts and top of good quality, many made in the UK, at reasonable prices, something difficult to find in Leeds City Centre these days. Once of her customers interviewed by Radio Leeds said that she had been wearing a cardigan bought at Kay’s for 30 years! When we put it to her that the council says that Kirkgate Market traders are outdated and have not caught on with new customer demands she responds that the council have no idea about trading and that she knows well her customer base and has adapted and changed with the times and the fashion. These emotional connections and immaterial relationships is what will go if the Market is changed into a more sanitised version. It functions as a social hub, bringing people together beyond a commercial act. When Richard Edwards asked Kay’s customer to say a farewell message she said: “we love you”. Now, you would not get that in Primark, would you? Or in the new shiny Trinity? And no, this is not nostalgia, but a desire for a city made up of trusting, respectful, fair, relationships of which the Market is a privileged site.
Does Leeds City Council not understand what knowledge the traders have or does it simply not want to work with traders? That is the question emerging from the recent meeting held on the 18th Nov between Council officials and traders.
Just compare the language used in their latest press release on the Market redevelopment project.
“Traders will be shown the current plans for the project, as one of the main stakeholders, as part of a special briefing”
“To get this far we have already spoken to a number of affected traders about their requirements and we will be meeting with all traders shortly to update them on progress”
Versus the language used when talking about paid management consultants:
“Our appointed consultants have been working with markets management and independent commercial specialists to develop design and cost(ing) proposals”.
This actually translates into:
We have paid some consultants over £750,000 to tell the council what they want to hear about the future of the Market.
In the meantime, we try to keep traders in general as uninformed as possible but talk individually to some of them making separate and differential deals – trying to convince them they will be ok in the new plans.
No wonder this feels hollow to traders and they see a big gap between what is said to the Council and what happens in reality. This should not really come as any surprise, since part of the consultant consortium used to work for Leeds City Council and the other firms, that mainly deal with architectural designs,are from other cities and know little about Leeds.
But it does show a that those leading this change in LCC whilst naïve since they think people will take this lying down, they seem quite prepared to waste Leeds taxpayers’ and traders’ money by not capitalising on the expertise of the traders – some of whom have had family businesses there for over 100 years. What a waste not to tap properly into that knowledge.
When FOLKM announced they were presenting a community deputation to denounce lack of progress and transparency, we saw a sudden burst of activity on the part of market management and Councillors leading this change – and meetings with traders organised at very short notice. Any wonder that this seems like simply tick a box exercise, pretending there is real engagement with traders. This simply is not true and trader after trader gives that message to anyone who will listen – which is not the councillors leading this change, who do not talk to traders unless they feel pressed into it and do not actually listen at all. That really says it all – they have a plan they are driving forward regardless and it might just end in catastrophe.
In terms of the empty promises about traders being engaged in new market management board, this now is not going to happen until all the plans for the redevelopment have been decided, consultants appointed and plans drawn up under current proposals. Too late to have any significant input.
So we want at the Executive Board meeting in December to have the questions posed in the community Deputation properly discussed, for common sense and financial considerations to prevail and fundamental changes made to the current direction of travel.
All that is being sanctioned here is the expenditure of money on consultants – no repair work being funded for things like leaking roofs and no meaningful engagement with traders – the people who know and understand the market customers most. It is like a script from an old Monty Python – “Ministry of silly market policy”
Click to watch our speech
Friends of Leed Kirkgate Market brought a deputation to Leeds City Council on November 13th. We told the meeting of 90 councillors how important the market was to the people of Leeds and how disturbed we were that none of the £1.615 million we were promised this year had been spent on anything except consultants. We asked the following questions:
- We are now 8 months into this financial year - how much of the £1.6m has been already spent?
- On what will the remainder of the expenditure be spent?
- If this is the first phase of the total £12.3m how can anyone be sure any of this will be delivered as announced? We understand the £750,000 agreed for maintenance has been stopped!
- Why are some traders being asked to pay for electrical works even in units including Butchers row, which are meant to be demolished under current redevelopment proposals?
- Why is there no clear consistent policy for all traders?
- When will the proposals for this project be brought back to Executive Board for approval?
- The area behind the George Street shops is a major loading area for traders, what suitable arrangements for market requirements will be made for alternative loading facilities when this is gone?
- When and how will detailed proposals for the market changes be shared with the public and traders?
- How are traders themselves being involved in the design of this alternative management structure agreed at the Executive Board to include councillors, traders and independent representatives, and when will these management proposals be taken to Executive Board for approval?
- Can you please explain the reasons for the restructuring of the market management and the apparent reduction in expertise and resources and identify who is now acting as Market manager and why are they not visible to traders?
We finished with some poetry written by traders showing the current feeling -:
The market is ailing and in a sorry state,
The traders are abandoning this once magnificent place.
So many notices handed in to leave in the New Year
Will surely bring it tumbling down, like a deck of cards, as all the businesses disappear
No plans to change a single thing or clean and spruce it up
The millions promised never spent, just bailiffs to hang us up.
Like hungry vultures preying, on those who dared to try
And run a business in this place, now bled until they die
2014 will be the end
That is why at least 13 traders have handed in their notices to quit from January 2014.
Our appeal has been referred to the Executive Board who will consider it in due course.
On Monday 11th November Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market assembled outside the Civic Hall to present a crash course in maths to show Councillors that their figures for the future of Kirkgate Market just don’t add up.
The rents from Market traders have been making a profit for decades but the Council has reinvested little of this in its upkeep.
The Market needs urgent basic repairs but money for these has been delayed undemocratically while we wait for consultants to tell us, again, about grand plans for a redevelopment that will force many traders out. Traders and the public have to be put at the forefront of a plan to invest the profits from the market in improvements and ensure it serves all the local population, including the most vulnerable in our society.
When will they ever learn?
Ahead of our speech to all Councillors next Wednesday denouncing lack of progress, investment and transparency on the future of Kirkgate Market, Leeds City Council has now rushed to organise a meeting with all traders to explain them the latest news. But there will be little to communicate…
The invite was received by traders last Friday giving them a bit more than a week’s notice for an evening meeting after a long day of work. It is a rushed invite complete with typos where the Market manager recognises that “since we took the decision at Executive Board to proceed with proposals for refurbishment of Kirkgate Market it may appear that there has been little action”!!! And that is precisely the issue: that there has been no significant action.
As you might remember in March 2013 the Executive Board agreed to spend £12.3m in the refurbishments of the Market with £1.65m out of this money spent on “imminent” repairs and the progress of the refurbishment proposals. There were big press releases and announcements and the public were led to believe that all was well with the Market. After March, however, all went quiet. The council stopped publishing information about the meetings of the Kirkgate Market strategy Board, there has been barely no formal communication between traders and management and no evidence of any work in the Market. So what happened to the promised £1.65m? After writing formally to Councillors and council officers we have found out that what was an “imperative” backlog of maintenance repairs to be tackled with this money has now been delayed. How can repairs that were urgent and imperative be now delayed until further notice? We are talking here about the basic repairs that the public has told the council in endless consultation exercises that the Market needs: a roof that does not leak, a floor where you do not slip and ventilated space where you don’t freeze or boil.
In contrast, £750,000 and 115,000 are being paid to consultants to do more studies and design work. Read here the full response by the Director of City Development to the questions we raised.
It is very hard not to conclude that the council is carrying on with their plan to blight the Market so that they will have as few traders as possible to displace when the major planned refurbishments takes place.
These issues will be raised by a community deputation by Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market on the 13th of November. You can come to show support to your Market to Civic Hall at 1.30pm.