Councillors have agreed ‘in principle’ to pump £12m into redeveloping Europe’s largest market.
Coun Richard Lewis, executive member for development and the economy, said yesterday (March 13) the cash injection was necessary to make Leeds Kirkgate Market “fit for purpose” for the next few decades.
The City Council’s executive board also agreed that a new management structure was needed to improve relations between the market traders and council officers.
Coun Andrew Carter said a “mistrust” had manifested itself between the two groups.
He suggested that a ‘joint partnership’ that made the market traders the majority shareholder could be a way to give them a “real voice”.
Coun Carter said: “There’s a real fear that there’s a secret agenda that we are trying to move away from being a traditional market.
“We know that isn’t correct but that’s the concern.”
The new £12.3m plan could see the 1981 and 1976 buildings reroofed, create distinct zones and a central events space to attract shoppers.
The revamp will be funded by borrowing paid off by the market’s £1.4m annual profit and could also see the creation of a daily covered market.
It is hoped the outdoor market will stay the same, the frontage of George Street will be remodelled, while the whole project is aimed at complementing the new Eastgate Quarter, which is to feature a John Lewis.
Coun Stewart Golton, leader of the Leeds Liberal Democrats, stressed the plan had not been “rushed through” as suggested by the scheme’s critics.
He said: “Whatever out proposal for the city market it will be controversial with someone as everyone has an attachment with the place. What is before us is a balanced proposal.”
But he admitted: “One thing that does need to be tackled is the issue of leases.”
Sara Gonzalez, of the Friends of Kirkgate Market group, said increased rates was a genuine and realistic fear among market traders.
She said: “The market is not just a business. We need more representation from the public - customers, community groups and traders. We are very pleased with the investment in the roof.”