Leeds farmer’s market row: John Lewis hits back

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Retail giant John Lewis has been forced to hit back at claims it has played a part in the re-location of the Leeds farmer’s market.

It had been claimed the brand, which opened a £37 million flagship store in the city last month, wanted the markets moved back to the Kirkgate area of the town which the new John Lewis now dominates.

But when this was put to the John Lewis top brass by traders, the firm denied it.

Property Director, Jeremy Collins wrote back: “I am surprised that the reason for your re-location has been laid at our door. I can honestly say that we have had no discussions with the council about the detailed management of the markets, and certainly not specifically about the re-location of the farmer’s markets.

“We have, however, sought to encourage the council to invest in the markets to ensure the facilities can be the best possible.”

He told trader Francesco Mazzella, a restaurant owner who sells Italian food and drink goods at the market, that he was happy for his letter to be shown as evidence of the brand’s “neutral position” in the row that has been brewing between stall holders and Leeds City Council over the last six weeks.

It started when the farmer’s market, held on the first and third Sundays of the month, was moved from Briggate to Kirkgate.

Since then some traders have boycotted the market saying there is less footfall which is impacting takings and there are safety concerns as the area is used by rough sleepers and is often covered in urine and sick from Saturday night revellers.

A questionnaire is now being distributed by the council to traders and city centre retailers asking whether there had been a positive or negative impact and also asking for suggestions for alternative locations.

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