Leeds Kirkgate Market car park plans criticised for 'not sitting well' with climate emergency

Plans to open a new 42-space car park outside Leeds Kirkgate Market have been criticised for for contradicting Leeds City Council’s recent climate emergency declaration.

Thursday, 21st November 2019, 5:00 pm

The market, which is owned and operated by Leeds City Council, is currently subject to a proposal to convert part of the current outdoor market site into a car park. The council hopes such a move could help boost footfall in Leeds Market, which has seen declining customer numbers in recent years.

But opponents claim the plans to accommodate more cars make a mockery of the council’s plans to become carbon-neutral by 2030, and that not all market traders supported the plans

Coun Mark Dobson (Ind), who brought the item before the committee, said: “As the planning application looms, it is timely to raise significant concerns.

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Leeds Kirkgate Market from above.

“Are we serious about climate change? Every elected member on this table has extremely good intent to become carbon neutral by 2030.

“The comments made around large scale infrastructure projects having to be mindful of environmental impacts. I don’t believe this planning application sits at all with our aspirations to become a carbon neutral city.”

A report written by council officers stated the authority was “responding to market trader concerns” regarding the availability of suitable, low cost parking near of the market.

The proposed car park would have 42 car parking spaces, provision for electric vehicles and eight spaces for motorbikes. Each space would have a maximum of one hour parking.

The report added this would involve removing 55 existing stalls and building 19 new, purpose built stalls “in order to retain the popular area known as the fruit and veg line”.

The document stated: “The capacity of the outdoor market is too large with 185 stalls, in contrast to aspects of the market which are working very well such as the market kitchen which is 100 per cent occupied, the outdoor market is performing less well and this is replicated nationally at 50 per cent occupancy.

“Taking this into consideration there is more than enough space to accommodate any trader having to be relocated in order to develop the car park.”

Coun Dobson added that, as there were 42 spaces with a restriction of one hour, this could mean up to 420 cars between 8am and 6pm each day.

He said: “Where do these cars go when they leave the car park? They go down Dyer Street, take a left, up Regent Street and hit Skinner Lane.

“Do we really want to add more cars in more locations? Does this fit with those aspirations? I suggest not.”

The document added that 245 businesses in the market were balloted on whether they wanted the car park, and out of those that responded, 72 were in favour and 31 were against the proposals.

But Coun Dobson believed that, had outdoor traders been consulted separately to indoor traders on the proposals, the results of the ballot would have been different.

A Leeds council officer responded: “Market traders felt they wanted a greater say in how the market was managed and developed.

“It’s important that the councillors listen to what the traders say.

“There were 85 outdoor traders able to vote – if they all voted against it, they would have swung that vote. This issue wasn’t strong enough for them to vote against it, if it was, they would have voted against it.”

He added that the market had to compete with many supermarkets that had large free car parks on site.

Coun Neil Buckley (Con) said: “I see both sides of this argument, but [the council] can’t declare a ‘climate emergency’, then treat it as a ‘climate slight problem’. It’s either an emergency or it isn’t.

“We are all talking about how to have nimble buses going hither and thither and I’m not quite sure how that squares with building another car park.”

Coun Jonathan Pryor, the council’s executive member for employment said it was a “balanced decision” whether to progress this further, adding a car park would give them the opportunity to bulk buy.

Coun Ron Grahame (Lab) said: “I have seen the deterioration of the market since all the stores were closed down on the butcher’s row.

“Having been in the retail side of it, what is the benefit you are gaining from taking these traders out?

“The car park itself, to take out the traders and give them compensation to go inside the market, there is something wrong.”

Coun Pryor responded: “We are not moving anyone inside. If outdoor traders want to remain outdoor traders they can stay there.

“We are working hard to fill empty units. Things are difficult for traders at the moment.

“The market is on the up. We are going against national trends. There is still more to do, and we don’t get everything right, but we have got a lot right. This isn’t something we are imposing, it is something from traders.”

Summing up, Coun Dobson said: “There have been good points coming out from all sides.

“If we are going to take this climate emergency seriously, I think this planning application is the wrong way to see these aspirations.

“It’s licking your finger and putting it in the air and hoping for a good outcome.”

Chairing the meeting, Coun Paul Truswell (Lab) said: “Maybe this is a small vehicle where we do examine climate emergency ramifications.

“The only downside is that there is so many things that could go to that committee, they could be sitting there all day, every day.”

The committee agreed to recommend that the item goes before Leeds City Council’s climate emergency scrutiny board.