It comes as Leeds City Council unveiled its five-year plan to revitalise Yorkshire’s biggest indoor market at a meeting of senior decision-makers this week.
Making the comments, Leeds Liberal Democrats leader Coun Stewart Golton also told a meeting of the council’s decision-making Executive Board that the plans focussed too much on developments outside the market, and didn’t demonstrate how they would improve business at the site.
But Coun Jonathan Pryor (Lab), the council’s executive member in charge of markets, claimed that while more could be done with the space, it was currently running at 100 per cent occupancy and could not be deemed unsuccessful.
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A document by council officers said the authority wanted to collaborate with market traders to “cement the market’s place as a modern and accessible shopping destination in the heart of Leeds”.
But Coun Golton said more could have been done with the food hall and event space at the bottom end of the market, which was opened in 2016.
He added: “I think we have lost our way a little bit in terms of how we get to the next stage for the market. Most of the headlines in this report seem to be the property development end of it – like the George Street development.
“But it doesn’t actually demonstrate any extra business is being delivered from that relationship, as was hoped.
“I feel the events space and food hall is less successful than it could have been – as it was originally envisaged.
“We could think a bit more imaginatively as to how we can make it work a little bit better. At the moment, what was originally called the ‘day market’ hasn’t enabled small businesses to scale up and test their products on a market stall in the way that was intended.
“It’s actually a bit of an echoey chamber for those people who access it and not the best environment to eat your food if you are accessing the great menus that are in there.”
Responding to Coun Golton, Coun Pryor said: “The event space and food hall is the part of the market that is at 100 percent occupancy. They wouldn’t be at 100 percent occupancy if they weren’t successful.
“Yes, of course we need to do more with that space, but that wouldn’t be the bit I would pick out as the area where we need most additional work.”
The Leeds Kirkgate Market 2021-2026 plan includes, the council says, a strategy to ensure the market “operates in a more environmentally sustainable way”, with a focus on how market traders can reduce their carbon footprint, as well as plans to make the facility more age and disability-friendly.
The council added that the market would continue to put on community and cultural events, while also helping local entrepreneurs by introducing low cost “pop-up” units.