CONSULTATION DELAY MEANS LESS CHANCE FOR PUBLIC DEBATE
Why is Leeds City Council delaying the consultation over the future of Kirkgate Market?
Leeds City council is delaying releasing results of the first part of the study that they are conducting to redevelop Kirkgate Market and hence delaying the second round of a consultation that they promised. This will push the final consultation stage well into the run up to Christmas when the public and traders will be very busy and less likely to engage. We ask the council to delay the date in which the final decision is being made (9th January) to allow for proper debate on the possibly major changes that will be proposed for Kirkgate Market.
Let’s remember that Leeds City Council is carrying out a study into future options for Kirkgate Market the outcome of which is expected to be discussed by the Executive Board of Leeds City Council on the 9th of January. The work is actually commissioned to a property and management company called NPS who has put together a team of consultants.The council commissioned NPS with a brief to explore 5 options for redevelopment, most of them considered reducing significantly the size of the Market, something FOLKM opposes. Partly thanks to our persistence on transparency the council has so far released many documents that allow us to follow the progress on this redevelopment project – that is if you understand corporate managerial speak – and you can check them here.
The study (called a feasibility study) has involved a questionnaire with the public, various meetings with so-called “stakeholders” (including us) and design and other technical studies about the market. Only a tiny minority of traders took part in the consultation. The 3rd of september the council was supposed to start their second phase of consultation with the general public on the various options proposed by the consultant NPS. When the 3rd September came and went with no plans and no explanation for the delay we wrote to find out what was going on and were fobbed off with this pretty unlikely excuse that “We have gathered such a wealth of information through the feasibility study we will be amending the project timings slightly so we can spend the time we need to getting the information ready to share with everyone” and that the second phase of consultation will start some time “early october”.
What are the consequences of this delay?
First of all, lack of transparency. There has been no announcement of this delay, so we only found out when we contacted the council.
Secondly, it delays the whole process and it squeezes the time that the general public has to understand the implications of the possible major changes that will be announced. Let’s do the maths. The second phase of consultation was supposed to start on the 3rd of september and go on for 8 weeks (3/09/2012 – 26/10/12) (you can check the detailed calendar here (“what happens next?”). With the unspecified existing delay the second consultation period would not finish until the beginning of december when we will be well into the run up to Xmas, it will be more difficult to engage the public and the traders will be incredibly busy. In order to follow their timetable and present the reports in time for Executive Board meeting on the 9th of January the council might have to compromise on time spent consulting with the public.
FOLKM are demanding that the council delay the final decision on the market’s future for at least a month to give the public and traders time to understand and respond to the proposals. They should stick to the original agreement which they presented us with at the start of this process. In the current timetable the crucial stages of the process clash with the run up to Christmas or indeed christmas and new year celebrations. Or maybe this is designed so that there is little chance for the public to react?