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Is Something Fishy Going on in the Eastgate Scheme

March 3, 2012

Hot on the heels of Leeds City Council’s crazy decision to reduce the size of Kirkgate Market by 25% as part of a remodelled market (click here) we learn that the adjacent Eastgate retail scheme could now be in trouble.

Development giants Hammerson are asking the council – and the city – to bend over backwards to make sure that John Lewis is part of the planned Eastgate shopping mall. A confidential document will be considered by councillors this week but the proposed changes will not be made public and will instead be discussed at a private pre-meeting of the council’s Executive Board.

Readers will recall that Eastgate is a £650m retail development covering a 1 million sq ft area that involves demolishing most of the existing Eastgate Terraces and iconic buildings like the Lyons Works Factory to make way for new John Lewis and Marks & Spencer stores and some 130 new shops, restaurants and bars. Having already been delayed once and forced to abandon any housing as part of a revised scheme due to the global financial crisis, a new outline planning application was approved in September 2011.

Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market along with the Market Traders Federation actively opposed the Eastgate scheme due to major concerns about its likely impact on the Market, and a further 180 people (including traders) objected to the scheme. One of these objections concerned the design of the John Lewis store which turned its back on the Market and the potential traffic chaos on George Street as a result of John Lewis traffic and the creation of a new one-way traffic system. Another concern was the potential lack of demand for yet more shops in Leeds City Centre particularly in times of economic crisis. But Hammerson presented consultancy reports that assured the council and the public that the project was commercially viable. Now we learn in this new report that the John Lewis store is not currently commercially viable: “Changes will be required to the existing legal documentation”. What changes? John Lewis clearly has doubts over the scheme.

Shortly after the Eastgate plans were given outline planning permission last year, John Lewis chief exec Andy Street said: “To bring the huge retail regeneration of the city centre of the scale of Eastgate, this isn’t just about John Lewis, lots of other things in the background have got to come together. That’s what we keep saying to the chief executive and leader of Leeds City Council. You’ve got to make that context happen so Hammerson can deliver their commercial piece.” (LeedsBusinessDeskinterviewNovember 2011)

Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market only heard about these proposed changes from the LeedsCitizen blog so we read with surprise in the report going to Executive Board that Meetings have been held on a regular basis with the Civic Trust, the  Kirkgate Market Forum (traders & members) and there has been dialogue with the Friends of the Kirkgate Market” (paragraph 4.1.1.).

FOLKM had one meeting with Hammerson on the 1st of June last yeara 40 minute power point presentation and a frustrating session where we asked questions which Hammerson didn’t or couldn’t answer. This can hardly be described as “dialogue”.

Is this an attempt to convince John Lewis that everyone is on board and waiting to welcome them to the city with open arms? What is it that would make our city a more attractive proposition for John Lewis? How will it affect the market? Why is John Lewis calling the shots over this scheme? Why are these decisions and discussions taking place behind closed doors?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. smt permalink
    March 4, 2012 11:23 am

    This scheme is as dead as a dodo. It won’t be happening. John Lewis won’t open unless they have a direct car park. The proposed car park is located on the opposite side of the conseted scheme (on top of the proposed arcade stores).

    Eastgate can’t afford to build Eastgate in one go. You have a problem. John Lewis are impatient, they have a 2016 deadline. No car park, no John Lewis. No John Lewis, no Eastgate.

    The only way around the problem is to find a new car park. On cue a report recommending a reduction of 25% of the size of the Market. Hey presto! Land for a car park appears!

    The scheme is in trouble. The planning application for the reviewed scheme was made on the basis of previous economic forecasts, which as we all know, have been very wrong.

    If the proposals to the executive board don’t get passed the FOLKM will finally have got what they wished for!

  2. Toff permalink
    March 8, 2012 10:16 am

    The “25% reduction in the size of the Market” is quite an old proposal. There are a number of senior officers in LCC who would like to cover the cuts by selling anything that isn’t bolted down. The original development plan (2007) showed John Lewis on the North next to the multistorey car park but these changes would have been sorted out between Hammersons and JLP.

    Hammersons didn’t have problems with the Bullring development in Birmingham so funding will not be a problem for them. Hammersons recently announced that they were pulling out of office development and would focus on retail.

    More recently the West Yorkshire Police announced that they were going to move the Milgarth headquarters to Elland Rd and the detailed plans for the market suggested the the outside market would become a builders yard while the 1976 and 1981 halls are rebuilt.

    If the development starts by building on the George St carparks and then moves north the JLP store will be on its own surrounded by demolition and building sites with no parking nearby other than the NCP carpark in York St. The development plans for Quarry Hill show a multi storey car park but when this will be built nobody knows.

    This will not help the market either and both will have the problem of traffic chaos on George St and Vicar Lane.

    Traffic and parking will be a big problem unless the car park at the North next to the A64/A58 is built first, or Milgarth becomes a car park too. The problem is that it is built over the top of a huge culvert containing the Lady Beck.

    As Leeds City Council has expressed its opposition to expanding city centre car parking quite loudly this will require councillors to change their position and there are detailed figures given for the amount of car parking permitted depending on the size of the reail development.

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