It’s a historic gem at the heart of Leeds’s retail offering – but after years of neglect is Leeds Kirkgate Market about to get the investment it deserves? Well, yes and no, depending on who you believe.
The council has revealed more details on the next stages of the £12.3 million investment to redevelop large areas of the market.
The press briefing comes ahead of tomorrow’s full council meeting at Leeds Civic Hall which will see the Friends of Kirkgate Market (FOLKM) group present a deputation to complain about what they claim is a lack of progress on the improvement work.
FOLKM members claim urgent repairs have been delayed, a new management structure with traders on board is yet to set up and, over half way through the financial year, “nothing can be construed as breathing life into the market”.
The pressure group claimed there is still a leaking roof and “no sign” of other improvements despite an agreed £1.615m expected to be partially spent on an “imperative” backlog of maintenance repairs in this financial year.
Group members and traders also protested outside Leeds Civic Hall yesterday.
But senior council managers today hit back at the claims, saying a lot of work was going on behind the scenes of what is a ‘complex’ issue.
In their briefing, they said that consultants had been drawing up early plans for the project. These outline plans are due to be brought before the council’s decision-making executive board next month before more detailed proposals are brought back to executive board ‘early’ in the New Year ahead of the submission of a full planning application.
Improvement proposals, many of which were highlighted back in March, include:
- Moving the current butchers’ row next to the fish and game row
- Replacing the roof in the 1976 and 1981 halls
- Moving existing stallholders out of the 1976 hall to make way for a covered daily market and a flexible performance/exhibition space
- Improving ventilation and heating, as well as electrical work
The impact of the adjacent Victoria Gate development on the market was mentioned more than once. Interestingly, there are some ideas to transform the George Street frontage which will back onto Hammerson’s new development and the new John Lewis store.
The idea is to ‘lock down’ the frontage and in the current butchers’ row and have that part of the market open into the evening to reflect the later closing times of Victoria Gate and nearby Trinity shopping centres.
The frontage will include independent traders/current market stall holders who want to open later, as well as independent restaurants and takeaways. The area, it’s said, will have an international feel and is ‘an opportunity to extend the relevance of the market into the night time’.
Commercial property advisors are currently looking at the George Street plans, which are separate to the main regeneration of the market. It’s likely the retail units will have residential flats above them.
There are no detailed plans at present.
Traders will inevitably feel some disruption, market managers said. The traders who make their living in the 1976 hall are set to be offered a relocation to other parts of the market – but markets manager Sue Burgess could offer no guarantee that ALL stallholders could be accommodated. There may not be room for some of the traders on temporary contracts, depending on demand.
Ms Burgess said:
“There are some businesses in the 76 Hall who have indicated to us that they might not want to continue, they’re retiring for example.”
In answer to critics questioning the lack of repairs at the market, director of city development Martin Farrington said that repairs would be carried out on health and safety grounds or if they were ‘business critical’:
“We don’t want to do works that have abortive expenditure.”
In other words, if the roof’s leaking it might not make sense to repair it if it’s going to be replaced in a few years. Other repair works will be incorporated into the main refurbishment project.
But in a post on their blog, FOLKM argue:
“How can repairs that were urgent and imperative be now delayed until further notice? We are talking here about the basic repairs that the public has told the council in endless consultation exercises that the Market needs: a roof that does not leak, a floor where you do not slip and ventilated space where you don’t freeze or boil.
“In contrast, £750,000 and £115,000 are being paid to consultants to do more studies and design work.”
Once planning permission for the improvement scheme is granted, Ms Burgess said work could start in late 2014 or early 2015 with the work taking up to 30 months to complete.
David Gardner, from scheme designers IBI Taylor Young, said construction will be phased to limit disruption to traders.
Council officials were due to meet traders last night.
Cllr Gerry Harper, Deputy Executive Board Member for Development & Economy, said he hoped the traders would be ‘a happier bunch’ after the meeting.