Kirkgate Market

The market is likely to see a quarter of it's layout changed. Photo©knowyourleeds

A report yesterday to council bosses made grim reading for supporters of Kirkgate Market. The 180 year-old market needs to lose 25% of its trading space the report by Quarterbridge Project Management said.

Commissioned by Leeds City Council, the report recommends parts of the market be reconfigured and redeveloped. It also said the market could be co-run by the council and/or private sector investors.

LeedsMarket.co.uk has blogged on it, and wrote a summary of the main points:

  • Reconfiguring the overall space available to provide a 25% reduction in trade space. The overall site would remain the same size but space would be reconfigured to create a better flow for customers; better quality trading environments for traders; a balcony area could be utilised to create a food-court area to enhance the social experience in the market hall; a basement level could be added to improve servicing routes for traders.
  • The view from the private sector is that sole ownership would be preferred. However, it is unlikely that Leeds City Council would agree to sell the markets in its entirety.
  • The costs associated with the above suggestions are significant and in the consultants view it is also unlikely that Leeds City Council could undertake these changes without private sector support. With this in mind the report also recommend that the markets become a Limited Liability Partnership. This effectively makes Leeds Markets a jointly owned company between Leeds City Council and either a sole or a number of private sector investors. The report suggests that Leeds City Council should maintain a 25% share based on the amount of financial capital realistically available.
  • Should a Limited Liability Partnership be created, the new board of shareholders may seek to appoint a private sector management company to oversee day-to-day management of the markets and its future development.

The 70 page report can be found here: http://goo.gl/yuQYw

At lunch time yesterday, knowyourleeds took a walk round the market to see how the lunch time trade was doing.

You can see some badly taken photos on the below flickr stream.

We all have busy lives and for many in the city, a for some, a Friday lunch may represent the only time available to stock up on weekend essentials. Buying fresh, locally produce fruits, veg and meat while eating some chips sounds a lot more fun than queuing at the tills on a Sunday afternoon.

But with Tesco announcing a profit loss of £5bn this week, it’s clear that shopping habits have changed dramatically.

Even at lunch, many stalls at the Market were shut, adding to the distinct air of desperation around the place.

What the market does offer is abundance. Cheap fresh produce almost straight from the source. Thirty satsumas were selling for a pound. Five lemons: 50p. A bag of tomatoes (red and huge): £1. A massive sack of toilet roll: £2. You wouldn’t find those prices at any supermarket.

This isn’t squarely – for once – a council problem, nor is it the traders fault. Times change. Things have to adapt.

The proposals will be considered by the council’s Executive Board in February who will have to decide whether to act or not on the recommend that the market’s size be reduced by 25% to 52,000 sq ft (4,831 sq m) and redevelop the rear extensions of the market to modernise it.

Hopefully something good will come out of this. Leeds had two huge Universities right on its doorstep. And surely some initiative which encourages wannabe entrepreneurs could can add some vibrancy and live into it.

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