RENTS at Leeds’s historic Kirkgate market are to be slashed by a fifth ahead of a £12m refurbishment of the building.
A major upgrade of the market building, spearheaded by Leeds City Council, gets underway in early 2015.
The 20 per cent rent reduction for stallholders, which is yet to be rubber-stamped by the council’s cabinet, could kick in from October and would last a year.
In recent months, relations between stallholders and the council have been strained amid uncertainty about disruption during the refurbishment period and the future of the market after the arrival of the Victoria Gate development.
It was claimed the closure of the main car park near the market, to make way for initial construction work on Victoria Gate, had caused some traders’ takings to slump by up to 40 per cent. The council responded by securing cut price parking for market shoppers at a nearby private car park,
Councillor Richard Lewis, the council’s executive member for transport and economy, said: “While this is one of the most exciting developments at Kirkgate Market for many years, we know it’s going to be a challenge.
“As well as being about the refurbishment of a much loved Leeds landmark, it’s also about people and their livelihoods and the long-term commercial success of the market. We’re determined to find the right balance that allows businesses to trade while working on the fabric of the building and keeping the long-term goal in mind.
“We’re listening to traders’ concerns, both in respect of changes already experienced and what is yet to come, and that is why we’re proposing a year-long cut to rents.”
Also being planned is a temporary closure of the fish and game row area to allow for some initial work.
The council is offering affected traders alternative accommodation for three months in refurbished empty market units on the existing Butchers’ Row.
The authority says this will enable the works to be completed in one go, minimising disruption for traders.
Once works are completed, traders will be able to move to the fully revamped food area.