(Updated) No downsizing as council unveils £12m plans for redevelopment of historic Leeds market

leeds-kirkgate-market-ext-001After years of uncertainty, consultants’ reports, public consultation and controversy, firm plans have been released for the future of Leeds historic Kirkgate Market.

Under proposals going to a meeting of council leaders next week (Wednesday 13th March) £12.3m is going to be spent on redeveloping the market in the coming years: the roof of the 1976 and 1981 buildings is going to be recovered; an events space is going to be created at the market’s heart; and there’ll be new routes through, and distinct zones created.

Senior councillors and officers told a press briefing yesterday that there are no plans to “gentrify” the market or reduce the size of its buildings – under the proposals there will be the same number or possibly more retail units.

And the outdoor market is going to be retained and opened up to its forthcoming (in 2016) new neighbour, the Eastgate retail and leisure development.

New management board

Doctor fishEarlier plans for a possible radically new way of running the market have been shelved till the redevelopment of the market is completed.

Instead the market is remaining firmly in the council’s hands – reflecting feedback received during the latest consultation – and will be run by a new management board with councillors, traders, local authority nominees and independent members with relevant experience in commercial retail sitting on it.

A report on the recommendations prepared for next week’s meeting adds that trader members on the board – which would have a ring-fenced operational budget – would be elected by their fellow traders.

The aim is to get away from the perceived “Us and Them” status quo to a more cooperative model, yesterday’s briefing was told.

Formal decisions would still be in the hands of the council’s executive or taken through officer delegation, but the new board would “improve the engagement of traders in the management of the market, whilst also providing stability during a complex redevelopment phase”, the report said.

The scope for a more arms-length arrangement – such as a Wholly Owned Management Company – could be considered once the redevelopment has been completed.

George St improvements “to complement Eastgate”

george stIn a separate project up for approval, the market’s frontage on George St is set to be redeveloped: the old 1930s and 1980s shops and offices are to be demolished and replaced by a new parade of independent retail units accessible from inside and outside the market, with up to 3.5 storeys of apartments above.

Improvements will also be carried out to entrances to the market and “public realm” along George Street.

The aim would be to create a “more appealing frontage” that will attract the “predicted 12-15m” shoppers from the new Eastgate development into the market.

“Investment here will help ensure that George Street becomes a quality shopping street and create a new active frontage to the market that will complement and benefit from the
Eastgate Quarters development,” says a council brochure outlining the proposals.

The business case for the George St project hasn’t been finalised yet, but it would be funded separately from the main markets scheme and brought forward by a developer through a procurement exercise, possibly with some initial council subsidy.

Preliminary building work possibly this year

Markets Manager Sue Burgess told the briefing there was no intention to put up rents. The £12.3m redevelopment work is going to be funded through borrowing that will be paid off using the profits generated by the market.

If the council’s executive board gives its approval, some preparatory building work could get under way this year.

Council officials wouldn’t be drawn yesterday about how long the work will take. It will kick off with “fixing the basics”, including the recovering of the roof, and then continue in phases over the next few years.

Initial reaction to the proposals from market traders has been mixed. Check out John Baron’s report on thecitytalking.com here.

The reaction from the public seems to be pretty positive so far – see the comments below and those underneath today’s story in the Yorkshire Evening Post here   

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3 Responses to (Updated) No downsizing as council unveils £12m plans for redevelopment of historic Leeds market

  1. Alison says:

    Interesting. I filled out one of their feedback forms and was thus invited to a sort of ‘people’s voice’ meeting about the future of the Market. This truly reflects what we all said. Could it be (gasp!) that they listened to us and followed our suggestions?!

  2. jennypugh says:

    I am genuinely excited by this news, as the market always had such potential, but it seemed that no-one cared. Brilliant news!

  3. Completely agree with Jenny, this looks like great news on all fronts.

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