Leeds Kirkgate Market shipping container 'food village' plans clear first hurdle as councillors share views
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The plans, inspired by similar schemes in London and Manchester, have sparked a mixed response from traders since the idea was first put forward before Christmas. However, 71 per cent of the 2,000 or so people who took part in a council consultation on the scheme are reported to have expressed support.
With that in mind, the council’s executive board has now offered its blessing for the plans to progress further. The exact details, such as the positioning of the units, will only be determined following further talks with traders.
Cherished by shoppers and citizens in Leeds for decades, Kirkgate Market has struggled in recent years against competition from online retail and changing shopping habits. While more than 90 per cent of units in the indoor market are occupied, over half of the space in the outdoor section is empty.
Coun Jonathan Pryor, Leeds’ executive member for economy and culture, said the new plans would help to keep the market viable. He told an Executive Board meeting this week: “It’s really important that we ensure the future of the market for traditional market customers, while also recognising that there are fewer of them. So to secure the long-term future of the market, it’s vital we bring in more trade and new customers.”
Coun Pryor said the local authority had not hiked rent for traders since 2011, as an example of the support they have had. He also pointed to the £14m refurbishment of the venue in 2016 and ongoing maintenance that has taken place in the years since.
There have been clashes between traders and the council, however. Among the more notable issues was in 2020 when stallholders were issued with backdated charges to cover the early months of lockdown, despite being unable to go to work.
Some have also been sceptical of the food container plans and the effect it will have on the market. But the leader of the council’s Conservative opposition, Coun Andrew Carter, backed the Labour administration’s plans.
He said: “There seems to be a lack of response from the traders (in the consultation) and a varied one where there was a response. But I have to say I support the paper and I really think they should seize the opportunity.”
Separate plans have been submitted for an indoor market scheme involving repair, conservation and refurbishment works to be carried out on the 1875 Blockshops area.