Traders at Leeds’s historic Kirkgate Market have welcomed a victory for people power and common sense - after winning a rent reduction to help compensate for huge losses they say they are suffering due to construction work on a major £13.7m refurbishment of the building.
The Yorkshire Evening Post reported last week that stallholders feared the once bustling shopping destination was now “dying”.
Leeds City Council had offered a 20 per cent rent reduction last year to mitigate the effect of the £13.7m refurbishment of the historic site, and extended the offer until March 31 this year.
But traders said this was not enough, and the disruption had significantly affected footfall and sales – by up to 90 per cent in some cases.
Others claimed they were thousands of pounds in debt and relying on their pensions to get by.
However after the YEP’s special report, the council has agreed to extend the rent reduction until the end of this month.
The main construction works to the indoor market will be completed by the end of April, and the areas that have been behind hoardings since March 2015 will be reopened to the public.
Traders today welcomed a victory for people power.
Lisa Stebbings, whose family run ‘David’s Bargains’ stall - founded by her father - has been selling clothing from the site for more than 40 years, said: “We are very pleased. If the hoardings are going to be down and the construction finished, that’s fantastic and we will be happy.”
She thanked the YEP for its intervention, adding the rent U-turn would not have happened without the additional publicity.
Leeds City Council confirmed today that it will “further extend the reduction in rent for regular traders until the major works are completed”.
The 20 per cent rent slash has already been in place for the past 18 months for indoor traders and 15 months for outdoor stall holders,
The market refurbishment has been under way for the past year and although the council insists “much work has taken place to minimise disruption to trade”, it has agreed to “extend the existing arrangements to offset the current trading conditions”.
Councillor Richard Lewis, executive member for regeneration, transport and planning said: “Leeds Kirkgate Market is undergoing a substantial transformation and the improvements will help keep the market as a really great place for residents, visitors and traders.
“Whilst works will be continuing for some time, those that cause the most disruption are due to be completed soon and by the end of the month everyone will be able to see what a great job has been done and will recognise what a difference these improvements have made.
“We realise that during these refurbishments there has been disruption to both businesses and customers.
“That’s why, following discussions in the last few weeks, we have taken the decision to extend the 20 per cent reduction in base rents for traders for a further month for regular traders at Kirkgate indoor and outdoor markets.
“We know that whilst we have been investing in the market’s future, many traders have also been putting their own money into investing in their stalls, something that will help us work together to create a great market experience for everyone.”
Once completed, it is hoped the newly refurbished market will be a “prime” retail location for the city alongside the new Victoria Gate development.
Steven Mathers, a trader and member of the market’s management board, whose family have run fruit stalls for 80 years, previously told the YEP: “It’s in dire straits. We’ve been hit a lot worse than expected.
“A lot of people are surviving because the rents have been put down. If they put them back up, a lot of stalls will close down.”