Traders are seeking urgent top-level talks over the future of Leeds’s historic Kirkgate Market.
The demand for discussions came as senior councillors agreed in principle that the size of the market could be reduced by 25 per cent and officers will now draw up a feasibility report on how that could be achieved.
The council’s executive board also agreed to reinvest up to £500,000 a year from the market’s profits which could be used to support the borrowing of up to £7m to improve the market.
The board’s discussion followed the recent publication of a report by consultants Quarterbridge – commissioned by the council – suggesting in future the management of the market could be handed to a limited liability partnership on a 99-year lease. It also suggested tenants might have to go through a “reselection process” for a stall if the market was revamped.
Councillors decided more work needed to be done on how the market should be run.
Coun Richard Lewis, executive councillor for development, said he considered some parts of the Quarterbridge report - for which the council paid £12,500 - useful but found other parts “indigestible.”
He added: “I wasn’t that keen and their thoughts about ownership,” but he accepted something had to be done to tackle what he termed the market’s steady decline.
He said: “They did have proposals about the size of the market that most think are sensible.”
And Coun Keith Wakefield, council leader, reassured traders that the council had no intention or privatising the market.
He said: “We aren’t spending millions of pounds to lose it to a private company. It will remain in council ownership. All options for the market’s future management are open for discussion and agreement.”
Coun Andrew Carter, Conservative group leader, said the predicament was how to modernise the market while maintaining its traditional character.
The traders now want a meeting with Coun Wakefield, Coun Lewis and council chief executive Tom Riordan to discuss the best way forward for the market.
Liz Laughton, a traders’ representative, told the YEP: “The key to all this is getting the management model right and that model must include the traders. If the management is right there may be no need to reduce the size of the market.”