FoLKM’s Speech to the Planning Committee
FOLKM are objecting to this planning application on the grounds that it fails to properly consider the negative social impact of its proposed redevelopment. To be sure, we are in favour of much needed investment in the building, but our worry is how the change in the BUILDING will affect PEOPLE. The need to consider this social impact is not just driven by a sense fairness but is a fundamental legal duty on the public sector. The council is obliged to carefully consider how any changes will impact particularly on “protected categories” which include: the elderly, women, those with disabilities, ethnic minorities all of whom are more likely to be in low incomes.
It’s evident that these are the groups that currently benefit particularly from the Market economically and socially and they are the ones that the council is legally responsible to protect from any negative impacts.
What do we think the negative impacts will be?
- The majority of traders that have been forced to move will face higher rents. FACT. For example Butchers now paying £34.5 psf will have to pay £47.5. (more than 35% increase)
- Council documents state that the refurbishment is being seen as an opportunity to increase income and that rents will increase to reflect this work.
- As a result Higher rents in the redeveloped Market will drive traders and those more vulnerable customers out.
- Dozens of traders are being displaced by this redevelopment as existing businesses don’t find a new appropriate stall at an affordable rent. The loss of particular traders will of course have an impact on those groups who rely on them.
Councillors will know that after we submitted our objection the council was asked to re-write their Equality Impact Assessment. However the revised impact assessment still does not offer any guarantees to mitigate against these negative impacts on vulnerable communities, particularly when it comes to the hundreds of thousands of market users.
FOLKM (and many others) are genuinely worried about the gentrification of the Market and we know this term has become quite controversial. To be sure, we know that gentrification is not something that any local authority sets out to do. However, as lots of research shows redevelopment of any building or area can easily lead to gentrification if robust measures are not put against it. In numerous meetings, communications and documents we have discussed with market management how changes in the building, rents, composition of traders can marginalise those more vulnerable groups in Leeds but there has been no action taken to even acknowledge this risk. The council is in denial. Just saying “we don’t want to gentrify” the Market won’t protect those in lower incomes that rely on it.
But the council is not only ignoring a risk is also ignoring an opportunity. 100,000 people visit the Market every week many of which come from the most deprived wards in Leeds. They have little money to spend on food, they are experiencing fuel poverty, isolation, multiple health inequalities, learning difficulties. These are the people that the council has statutory obligations towards and the Market is now a place to reach them but we should protect and build on this.
FOLKM want to see investment and improvement in the Markets BUILDING but not at the expense of the PEOPLE that use and work in the Market. What we are saying is put the PEOPLE first, not the BUILIDNG.