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Next steps in the Kirkgate Market redevelopment project…but we have more questions than answers

December 17, 2013

Leeds City Council Executive Board will discuss the next steps in the redevelopment project of Kirkgate Market on wednesday 18th dec at 1pm (meeting open to the public). Once again, however, we find ourselves with little detail of the real consequences and impacts of this redevelopment on the Market, its traders and customers.

The main proposals are: a new stall layout for the 1981 hall, replacement of roof covering in the 1976 and 1981 halls, improvement of ventilation, a new “covered daily market” in the 1976 hall replacing existing stalls and traders, move of butchers row to the fish area, removal of a wall in the outdoor market that now protects traders and customers from wind, redevelopment of the George Street stalls.

We have many questions as to what these changes will actually mean. Can councillors really decide on the future of the most precious landmark of Leeds? and when will we really be told about the detailed plans? These are our comments:

  •  In April 2013, after lobbying by traders and FOLKM,  the opposition “called in” the March 2013 Exec Board decision to progress on the redevelopment proposals. Conservative Councillors noted the lack of specific detail in the proposed redevelopment. But the labour majority in the Scrutiny Board dismissed these concerns because the then “report presented to Executive Board set out a series of principles and that worked up options would need to go back to Executive Board at the appropriate time. ”
  • The report does not explain why the improvement works (agreed in March 2013 by Exec Board)  have not been started, even when this was directly asked by FOLKM.
  • The report does not explain any details of the prudential borrowing scheme for the proposed £12.3m. Has this  loan been requested? when? what will the requirements be to request a loan? business case?
  • How do the proposal facilitate the “growth of existing businesses” as the report says in point 5.1?
  • It is good to see that the leaking roof and ventilation problems will be tackled. Unclear how though as no specific details or costings.
  • Reading in between the lines we see that, as we knew already,  many traders will lose their business or will be reallocated with their leases being terminated and replaced. But there is no clear explanation of the true cost of this redevelopment for traders and how the council will make sure that those more vulnerable traders and customers will not suffer. This does not correspond with paragraph 3.2 statement that “the proposals must reinforce existing business activity in the Market” as well as new traders and customers.
  • How many stalls will go with the reconfiguration of the 1981 and 1976 halls, the new pedestrian route and George St reconfiguration?
  • How many businesses will be moved and hence lose their existing tenancies?
  • How will new stalls be allocated to existing traders? Will there be a re-selection process as proposed by the previous Quarterbridge report or as it has happened in other markets (f.e. Blackburn)? What will be the criteria for “re-selecting” traders
  • To date we have not seen a business/economic case for the proposed “Covered daily Market” that will replace existing businesses by an uncertain demand of “pop up” stalls.
  • The whole report talks about buildings and stalls but not the people behind the stalls and how will they be affected.
  • The indicative strategic programme, item 3.6, is a technical timetable but no clear sense of what it means for traders or customers.
  • The George Street part of the Market will be turned into an extension of the Victoria Gate and handed over to a private developer with the council leasing back the ground floor.
  • Traders are clearly not involved in the drawing up of any of these redevelopment plans but periodically “informed” in meetings.
  • There is absolutely no mention of the key role that the Market has for those in low income in the city and how this redevelopment will affect them. In previous reports (investment case document for the Feasibility study) we read that the redevelopment would allow the council to charge higher rents in certain areas of the Market and the proposed  1976 is described as “niche” and “can be let at a premium” (investment case, para 5.10). higher rents will mean higher prices.
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