Market rent row over rate reduction plan

Leeds Kirkgate Market.
Leeds Kirkgate Market.
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One of the longest standing stalls at Kirkgate Market will close today, another will pack up for the last time at the end of the month and other traders warn they will have to close in a row over rents and rates.

It comes as Leeds City Council plans a phased removal of a 20 per cent rent reduction it gave traders last year to counteract the impact of the opening of Victoria Gate and disruption caused by renovations to the hall.

25 May 2016.......      The revamped 1976 Hall in  Leeds Kirkgate Market. Picture Tony Johnson

25 May 2016....... The revamped 1976 Hall in Leeds Kirkgate Market. Picture Tony Johnson

Traders say their businesses are not viable, despite the authority saying in a new report that footfall has increased from 140,913 between October and December 2015 to 148,160 for the same three-month period in 2017.

Discount food chain Fultons has traded in Leeds for more than 40 years but will close today. Staff are being found other jobs but one worker said: “It is over the rents.

“I have been here 27 years. I know we are not going to be out of work but I feel sorry for the customers, they are upset.”

John Henry has worked at the market most of his life and has decided to call it a day with his clothing stall, Dress For Less. He says the increase in footfall comes from the monthly night markets at the food hall which take place when the regular stalls are closed.

He said: “It did not used to be a problem because the market was so busy we could justify paying the rents, rates and service charge but it has declined so that it is not sustainable.

“They are promoting the food area at the bottom end and they are getting more footfall but we are not seeing it on this part of the market.”

In a council report outlining the proposals, the authority says the re-instated rents will be in line with other markets and traders are being encouraged to “adapt and modernise to meet a changing customer base”.

There will be a 15 per cent reduction for February, ten per cent in March and five per cent in April with rents returning to pre-reduction levels in May.