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FOLKM calls the Executive Board to revise its decision on the Kirkgate Market redevelopment

March 20, 2013

The Executive Board has agreed a £12.3m redevelopment plan for Kirkgate Market. FOLKM has now read in detail the background documents presented at Executive Board (to be found here) and as we expected the Devil is in the detail. We think there are enough grounds for councillors to ask the Executive Board to rethink their decision and clarify the consequences of this redevelopment (this is called a “call in”).

Our fears are that the redevelopment. (Below we explain these arguments in more detail)

  • Lacks financial rigour and is highly risky
  • Will have a catastrophic impact on traders
  • Will be used to increase rents displacing traders and compromising the affordability element of the Market.
  • Does not solve the broken relations between traders and management
  • Misses an opportunity to harness the social function of the Market reaching out to those more vulnerable.
  • Does not reflect the views expressed by the public and traders.

In order to revise this decision we need to mobilise councillors to “call in” the Exec Board decision; either 5 councillors from the same party or 2 from different parties need to come forward by FRIDAY 5PM.

So we are asking that as many as you contact councillors to ask them to “call in” this decision. We have identified a list of 36 councillors that have important responsibilities and influence over the Kirkgate Market decision. We have provided you with their full contact details here. But you might also want to contact a councillor you know. Below we have explained our arguments for asking the Exec Board to revise this decision. Feel free to use these arguments when you contact councillors and let us know if any councillors are open to this option so that we can follow it up.

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ARGUMENTS TO “CALL-IN” EXEC BOARD DECISION ON KIRKGATE MARKET REDEVELOPMENT

Lack of financial rigour

The £12.3 proposed figure is actually a loan based on prudential borrowing and “additional market surplus will be required to finance the borrowing” (Investment Case para 16.3). The repayment of this loan hinges on: 1) the success of a proposed “daily open market” which the plan envisages as a quality niche (“foodie” “fashion”) market but for which we have not seen evidence that there is a demand and 2) “uplift in the economy combined with the completed Eastgate Quarters” (Investment Case para 16.3) both strategies highly risky and out of control of the Council and 3) higher rents (see below).

In addition, if as proposed the traders in the 1976 Hall are evicted this removes the £460,000 guaranteed income from the permanent traders on the risk that “daily” traders will deliver equivalent income. The plan B is that if the daily trader proposal did not work then the permanent traders would be invited back. This has been tried before (Corn Exchange), but once traders have been evicted they tend to be disenfranchised and cannot be encouraged to return.

Negative impact on Traders.

The redevelopment will mean that the large majority of traders will be served with eviction notices to either vacate the 1976 Hall or create new “zones” indoor. The proposals also suggest that outdoor traders will be affected although it is not clear how. All in all thousands of traders, their families and businesses that are linked to the Market will be affected creating enormous disruption. Customers will be put off by the general upheaval and other changes.

The available material does not make clear how traders will take up the new stalls and what objective criteria the management will use to “select” those for the fewer stalls in the redesigned zones.

The reports clearly accept that for many traders this redevelopment “may mean that termination of their agreement is the most appropriate option” (Report to Exec Board, para 5.3). The Eastgate development has been “justified” by LCC because the number of jobs that it will create but there is a counter argument that needs to consider: how many jobs will also be lost in other quarters with this redevelopment?

A new “daily covered market” is proposed but how will this affect the existing outdoor market if some of the envisaged new stalls cover similar produce? Is there demand for so many daily traders? It could be argued that this would mean the end of the existing outdoor Market something already proposed by the infamous “Quarterbridge report”.

The redevelopment will see traders losing their “right of assignment” (right to pass or sell their business) and instead replaced by 5 year leases. It could be argued that the redevelopment is being used as a way to “downgrading” tenants’ rights in the future compared to current rights.

The redevelopment has a hidden policy to change the type of traders that currently work at the Market. The “investment case” sets out that the proposed daily covered market will “attract different traders, rather than drawing from either the existing indoor or outdoor market” (paragraph 5.10).

There is no information whatsoever in the documents published so far on strategies for “decanting” and relocating traders while the redevelopment takes place.

Higher rents leading to displacement of traders and customers

This redevelopment will lead to higher rents as it is clearly outlined in the various documents. Indeed, as stated in the Investment Case, the major changes in some areas of the Market “will provide an opportunity for rent increases” but even where there will be no changes “there will be some scope to increase rents in each of the Halls to the same level” (para 7.7). This is despite the fact that that Leeds Kirkgate Market rents are already higher than in comparable Markets in the UK.

These higher rents will impact negatively on traders after a long period of readjustment and relocation. Those traders who have survived the difficult transition process, including re-location will have to pass their cost of higher rents into higher prices to customers. This will put at risk the affordability element of the market and therefore negatively affect those customers on low incomes that depend most on the Market.

A “redeveloped” Kirkgate Market is going to be aimed at more “upmarket” type traders and customers. The investment case clearly says that stalls at the proposed daily covered market  “can be let at a premium” (Investment Case paragraph 5.10) and the George Street area (i.e. butchers Row and below) will be completely remodelled and turned into a “quality shopping street” to reflect the luxury shopping area of the Eastgate Quarter.

Therefore, the redevelopment project will have the consequence of displacing existing traders and customers and replacing them by wealthier traders and customers.

Unresolved management problems

There is a lack of any critical analysis of the current management arrangement and how this has led to the current state of the market despite a large amount of consultees mentioning this.

There are no proposals for how to tackle the mistrust that exists on the part of the traders towards the current management team especially as this team has to manage an enormous redevelopment scheme.

The reports propose a “board of management” with trader representation and external expertise but this board will be presented with a plan for redevelopment rather than have a say on it.

Lack of any consideration or awareness of the essential “social function” of the Market.

The council is missing an opportunity to think about the Market as a “community hub”, which can help the council deliver its stated vision for a fairer, more sustainable and diverse city. More than just a business, Kirkgate Market is “community space” which provides an opportunity for Leeds City Council to reach hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people particularly at a time of general  recession, austerity and on-going benefit cuts. Instead of this, the whole approach of the feasibility study leading to this proposed redevelopment has been to see the Market as a building.

The expertise of the consultants hired for this study was in the main in property development, architecture and urban design. The council officers that have managed this project are mainly experts in finance, privatisation and real estate. There has been no significant input from experts on social, health and cultural issues. Hence the feasibility study only considers “buildings” but not people or economic/social relations between people or the overall health well being and public health function of the Market.

Limited consultation

There has been a failure of the consultation to engage traders, to listen to their fears, and reflect the way that changes could affect these key stakeholders.

At the “second stage” of consultation the public was presented with vague “12 elements” which were too general or had little meaning. These “elements” were not always derived from the “first stage” of the consultation instead reflected some of the long term agendas of the council (like reducing the size of the Market). The public was not given a chance to comment on meaningful proposals to be presented to the Executive Board and was only given one week to see key documents before this crucial decision.

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