Leeds City Council is pushing ahead with plans to invest in a private city centre car park.
The authority is looking to take over the leasehold of the 646-space NCP car park in Harper Street, next to Kirkgate Market, which made the current leaseholders £595,000 in rent last year from the parking firm.
The planned buy-out, which was approved by the council’s executive board yesterday, would mean NCP would continue to run the facility but the council would be paid the site’s substantial rent.
The Friends of Kirkgate Market (FOKM) campaign group has responded by appealing to the authority to make the facility better support the market. Traders and shoppers’s parking options have been reduced by the closure of the George Street car park that made way for the £150million Victoria Gate shopping centre.
The council will oversee a £12m upgrade of the market starting next year.
Sara Gonzalez, from FOKM, said: “We would want to see the car park working for the market a lot more rather than the car park being a cash cow.”
NCP parking at the Harper Street multi-storey costs £2.20 for up to 30 minutes, while parking there for between four and 24 hours costs £16.20.
The building was constructed in 1999 by NCP. The council owns the ground lease, which currently entitles it to just over £8,000 a year in rent. In order to raise funds NCP sold the car park to a third party, before leasing it back and paying the third party rent of almost £600,000 a year. The car park made £1.14m in 2013/14.
The council report states the third party “breached its banking covenants” and is now in a position to sell the leasehold, which the council is hoping to snap up for a confidential sum.
At the executive board meeting Coun Richard Lewis, lead member for economy, added: “It just makes a huge amount of sense as an acquisition.”