Market Inquiry Part 3 (08/02/2011)
Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market officially handed the 10,000 signatures petition supporting the Market to the Chair of City Development Scrutiny Board Councillor Procter at a meeting as part of the council’s inquiry into the future of our market. The petition has now been passed on to the Leader of the council Keith Wakefield.
This third session confirmed the main issues surrounding the market and also specifically dealt with the potential nearby development called Eastgate and plans for transport and parking for it. A lot of what was said was a repetition from previous meetings, showing that not much progress is being made.
The main points of discussion were:
- Ownership: Traders showed concern that at the previous meeting in January they felt pressure was building to make a decision about different ownership arrangements for the market. The Chair of the Board Councillor Procter however said that nobody was suggesting that the ownership of the market should be anywhere else than with the Council. The question to be discussed, however, was about different management models.
- Management: This continues to be the biggest problem in the market, proving that mismanagement is clearly linked to the decline of the market in the last years. Trader representatives at this meeting welcomed the appointment of a new market manager Sue Burgess since January the 1st but noted with frustration the different layers of council bureaucracy that she has to report to: “You have appointed a market’s manager now let her manage the market”!. The most interesting development in this meeting was however when traders mentioned that something called “Market Forum” or “Markets working group” was being put together and a first meeting was due on Thursday 10th of February but that they had had minimum involvement in the setting up of this group. When asked, council officers explained that indeed a group was being formed with councillors, officers and traders to discuss market matters and Councillor Harper (Labour) would chair this. Councillor Porter, Chair of the Scrutiny Board, then showed surprise that none of this would have been shared with the scrutiny Board and said he was “less than impressed” with how officers were dealing with the inquiry or the market in general, doing things “behind the scenes”. Councillor Harper intervened to defend this new group and to the astonishment of traders, FOLKM and other councillors read aloud the terms of reference of this new group. When traders showed little enthusiasm for this new mechanism which they show as unbalanced as they would be in minority, Councillor Harper asked traders to move on and make a new start and to trust that he would make traders’ voice heard. At this point Chair councillor Procter stopped the discussions and admitted that the whole thing was “frankly ridiculous” and that how could such a group be put together without full involvement from traders and before having serious discussions about various forms of alternative management.It was unclear would happen to this new group.
- Market strategy: Market traders asked that after months of delays a draft market strategy should be produced by Friday 11th to which Acting head of city centre development responded that this would be difficult as proper consultation was needed and input from this inquiry. Traders pointed out that officer Cath Follin had said months before that this strategy was imminent but apparently Follin was referring to a supporting document to the strategy. Chair of the Board Procter concluded that it was reasonable, after months of delays, that some kind of indication by the council was made to traders about the future strategy of the market and that we would personally talk to the leader of the council and get some response by Friday.
- Parking and Eastgate: Traders showed concerns about this development and in particular about parking. They shared our concerns that we have published here before. Officers explained that the Eastgate development, for which we are still waiting for a revised planning application, will bring a net increase of 1,600 spaces but of course on the far side of the development away from the Market. Chris Leonard from Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market expressed great concern at the effect that the Eastgate development will have on bus traffic how will this will impact the Market. Dozens of buses will be redirected along George Street between the Market and Eastgate development creating a constant stream of buses which will make very difficult for traders to load and unload and pedestrians to cross between the two shopping areas.
The discussion also touched on high rents, lack of transparency around how the service charge collected from traders is used and the lettings policy.
We are not sure whether a 4th session of the Market inquiry is planned. So far the Scrutiny Board has been very critical with council officers and the management of the Market so we look forward to their final report. However this will only be in the shape of recommendations.