COUNCIL chiefs in Leeds are set to sign-off spending an extra £1.35m on a major refurbishment project at the city’s historic Kirkgate Market.
Work got underway earlier this year on what was originally planned as a £12.3m project to breathe new life into the historic market, which was the birthplace of Marks and Spencer in the 1880s.
Councillors at tomorrow’s meeting of Leeds City Council’s executive board will be asked to approve an additional £1.35m of funding.
They will be told a new survey has revealed more work needs to be done and construction costs have risen.
The council wants Kirkgate Market to be able to take advantage of the “new customer base” attracted to the area when the neighbouring £150m Victoria Gate development opens next autumn.
Victoria Gate will consist of a flagship John Lewis store, a two-street arcade with more than 30 aspirational retailers and restaurants and an 800-space multi-storey car park.
The new anchor John Lewis store at Victoria Gate will be one of the partnership’s largest store outside of London at 255,000 to 260,000 sq ft.
Lobbying group the Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market (FOLKM), had raised concerns over the scale of the refurbishment project at the market.
FOLKM member Sara Gonzalez said her concerns remain that customers who are looking for low prices and variety of products could lose out in the new-look market.
She said: “We were concerned that the council is going for a big redevelopment project.”
She added: “They are borrowing against the profits the market is going to make over the next few years.”
Coun Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member responsible for regeneration, transport and planning said: “Kirkgate Market is a prime retail location with a major historical and cultural significance for Leeds, so it is only right that we invest in its future now to make it sustainable for generations to come. It is essential that we make these improvements now to make it more attractive to today’s customers and traders, and to take advantage of the new customer base which will be attracted to the area when the new Victoria Gate development opens next year.
“We can only achieve this by putting in the capital investment it needs now, to secure its long term growth it is vital that the right level of investment is made now, to ensure we use taxpayer’s money wisely on works that we know are needed now and in the near future.
“This will save money in the long term and cause less disruption for shoppers and traders. However it is a complex project in a listed building and a live retail environment which brings additional complications.
“We have undertaken a further survey which has indicated a need to do more to make the building fit for purpose long term, in addition to increased construction costs. This is one of the most exciting developments in Leeds today and by working with our appointed contractors Interserve, we will create a highly successful, profitable and sustainable destination market which is a centre of excellence for independent retailers and entrepreneurs.”