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Historic market may be moved out of control by city council

July 28, 2011

YEP article on decisions taken by the council at Leeds City Council Executive Board yesterday

Published on Thursday 28 July 2011 06:00

HISTORIC Kirkgate Market in Leeds could be reduced in size and may no longer be run by Leeds City Council after councillors agreed to look at options for its future in more detail.

Senior councillors in the city agreed yesterday to produce a further report which will examine moving the ownership of the market to an arm’s length company and determine the best size for the market.

The council’s executive board member for development and economy, Richard Lewis, said after yesterday’s board meeting that the authority wanted to make sure the market “has an exciting future”.

He added: “All parties recognise that doing nothing is not an option if we want to preserve the market for the future.

“Councillors emphasised that privatisation of the market was not on the agenda, but an arms-length management organisation could offer a more effective structure and free the market from the financial constraints on the city council.

“Officers were given the green light to look at the options for improving the market in more detail, including researching the optimum size for the market and how it will be best managed in the future. A further report will be brought back to executive board later this year.”

Council chiefs say initial estimates found that £1.8m needs spending on the listed market, on matters such as refurbishing roofs, but the bill is likely to be higher.

Campaigners have raised fears the proposals mean its unique appeal could soon be lost. Around 10,000 people signed a recent petition calling for more investment in the covered market, the largest in Europe, and rent reductions and a bigger say for traders in the way it is run.

Concerns have been raised about the impact from the £600m Eastgate development and attempts to improve the market’s attraction to shoppers include a new “shop and drop” scheme allowing customers to leave their goods in a chilled room until they are ready to collect for travel home. There have also been calls for evening and Sundays openings.

Sara Gonzalez, of the Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market, earlier said: “We are concerned that if these proposals get the green light we will end up with a completely different market with different traders who pay higher rents and this will displace traders and in effect displace customers.”

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