Eastgate megaproject approved but Market ‘must be integrated’
The Eastgate mega shopping centre that is proposed to be built by developer Hammerson next to Kirkgate Market gained planning permission on the 7th of July. Councillors on the Plans Panel (central) voted to go ahead with an outline planning application which confirms the basic principles of the project but all the details still need to be negotiated.
Thanks to our objection and 188 other objection letters many from traders and supporters of FOLKM the Market won’t be ignored in the design of the project. Some councillors and Kevin Grady from the Civic Trust agreed with our comments that the rerouted traffic on George Street due to the pedestrianisation on Eastgate might be too heavy to allow easy crossing between Eastgate project and the Market, that the Market might be relegated to be the back of the new “Eastgate Quarter”, that the proposed John Lewis building does not relate to the Market and that the contributions from the developer (Section 106) should be greater towards the Market (not just few parking spaces as it is proposed at the moment). Hammerson will have to go back to the drawing board and address these issues which will be assessed again in a new planning application for the so-called “Reserved matters” (all the design details). Coun Jarosz asked for this Plans Panel (even if beyond its remit) to put pressure on other parts of the council for new investment in the Market so that the market is not just surviving but thriving by the time Eastgate opens. Councillor Blackburn proposed to seriously look at the developer contributions in favour of the Market. These issues will now have to be considered by Hammerson.
Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market had opposed this project because we think it will have a negative impact on the Market if no new investment is planned for Kirkgate Market. Our objection has been explained before and you can read it all here and here. Officers and some councillors claim that relying on the fact that thousands of people could potentially visit this new shopping centre and possibly pop in the market to have a look might be enough to claim its positive impact on the Market. We believe this is irresponsible. And Hammerson agrees with us. At a meeting we had with Hammerson in May, Joe Swindells development manage for Easttgate admitted that even Hammerson did not believe that Eastgate would benefit the market in its current state. He said “Obviously there needs to be some serious investment in the buildings but that is not an issue for us – that’s for Leeds Council”
We were not surprised by the unanimous vote by councillors in favour of this project. We know that officers, politicians and Hammerson have been working side by side for years for this project to get through. We got confirmation of this kind of cosy relationship in a response we had to a Freedom of Information request on meetings between the council and Hammerson (here only the meetings that related to Kirkgate Market are listed). Hammerson, for example, has also sponsored the Leeds City Region’s trip to the real estate fair MIPIM in Cannes in 2011 and took councillors on trips to visit their developments in Sheffield and Birmingham, with the specific aim to see the impact on those Markets there, but traders were not invited. Councillors therefore have been heavily exposed to Hammerson views and opinions while the public has been engaged via a bureaucratic process of submitting a written objection to a planning application of thousands of pages. Megaprojects like Hammersons are actually in line with the condem coalition’s agenda of “growth” were practically any development should be allowed by default.
We will be watching carefully Hammerson’s plans and updating you.