A £12m ‘kiss of life’ for Leeds Kirkgate Market

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Leeds’s Kirkgate Market is to be brought “into the 21st century” by a huge cash injection.

Plans for the proposed £12.3m investment, which would see the 1981 and 1976 buildings reroofed, create distinct zones and a central events space to attract shoppers, will go before Leeds City Council’s executive board on March 13.

The announcement comes after years of debate and fears over advice to seek private investment and shrink the largest indoor market in Europe, which now appears to have been discarded.

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The revamp, which will be funded by borrowing paid off by the market’s £1.4m annual profit, could also see the 1976 hall become a daily covered market, while butchers row could be relocated with fish and game row.

But council chiefs yesterday (March 4) refused to rule out rent rises for some units once the majority of work is completed by 2016.

Coun Richard Lewis, the council’s executive member for development, said: “We want to do everything we can to support our market businesses to remain viable throughout the development.

“We have a real opportunity to develop Kirkgate Market and with the new Eastgate shopping and leisure development just across the road, this will become a much busier area of the city.”

He said he hoped work on the phased revamp would start “as quickly as possible”, with the aim of starting preparatory building work this year.

The completion of the revamp will also see the way the market is managed change, with Coun Lewis favouring a council-owned arms length management firm taking the reins, as is done with council housing.

The new model would likely see traders more involved in the running of the market.

On the subject of rent rises, markets manager Sue Burgess said: “We have not put the rents up for the last five years and there is certainly no intention to do so but post development some of the units may be different so we would have to be looking at the rents again.”

While 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.

The market, which has seen a spike in footfall due to the horse meat scandal, has seen income fall over several years.

Markets champion Coun Gerry Harper said 5,000 responses were gathered in consultation.

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