Leeds: Lower Kirkgate traders’ delight at £1m eyesore funding

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Traders on Lower Kirkgate, Leeds, are jubilant after securing £1m for an overhaul of the street – with the possibility of more cash on the way.

They say the changes are “long overdue”.

Leeds City Council approved plans on Wednesday to submit a £600,000 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Another £1m bid has already been accepted by the HLF.

The money will be used to renovate Lower Kirkgate which is occupied by the neglected First White Cloth Hall and several empty shop units.

Peter Griggs, who owns bridal wear shop Mia Sposa, said: “The image of Kirkgate is not conducive for people to come shopping in this part of town.

“Redevelopment of Kirkgate has been on the cards for donkeys years. It is long overdue because this is not the nicest part of town unfortunately.”

A council executive board report described Kirkgate, known as Leeds’s first street, as “a rundown part of the city centre”.

But the council hopes redevelopment, which would start in October, will kick-start a regeneration programme and attract £4m in private investment.

Mr Griggs, 54, added: “We need independent retailers to give the place lots of personality and character to make it different. Success breeds success.”

Gordon Noble, of Hills Fine Furniture, said: “I think the condition of Kirkgate is appalling. The whole area is, including the market. We have been waiting years for this.

“I certainly back the decision to redevelop the street. It’s long overdue.”

Chloe McGenn, 36, who runs Life’s Big Canvas, said boarded-up shops gave the street a bad image.

“We get people who look down this street and think it looks rubbish,” she said. “I think they should use the money to fill the empty shops. Just do something, anything, with them.”

Karen Illingworth, 23, who works at SOHO, said: “Kirkgate’s image is very bad.

“We need funding and support for businesses to encourage other traders to go into the empty properties. That will also bring more customers down here.”

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