‘Listen to us!’ - Leeds Kirkgate Market traders rep speaks out as council set to decide on strategy
A market trader has called on Leeds City Council to hold off on long term planning for the future of Leeds Kirkgate Market until Covid-19 related lockdown measures are over.
It comes as the authority is this week set to rubber-stamp plans to try and revitalise the market over the next five years, which could include cheap pop-up stores and further events to boost trade.
The council says it wants to collaborate with market traders to “cement the market’s place as a modern and accessible shopping destination in the heart of Leeds”.
But Lisa Stebbings, a traders representative who works in the market, said continuing uncertainty around Covid lockdown rules should mean the council holds off on such a long term strategy, and claimed traders were consulted on the plans before lockdown.
“The strategy should be three, six, nine and 12 months,” she said. “We can’t discuss a strategy that is pre-Covid and (was made) two years ago.
“It talks about how we should adapt, but most traders have already adapted – most have contactless payments and delivery service.
“We have all adapted – a lot has changed in two years. We are moving with the times, whereas that strategy makes it sound like we are not.”
The report is set to go before the council’s decision-making executive board, which is made up of senior councillors. Lisa called for those councillors to visit the market to understand what issues the traders are facing.
The strategy sets out how the council plans to regenerate parts of the market to “improve the overall look and feel of it for traders, customers and potential new businesses.
“I don’t want to be negative all the time,” said Ms Stebbings. “(The council) is doing things to help with (discounted) rents, but when it comes to July when it goes back to full price, some traders could be gone.
“The management of the market needs to be more trader-led. A glossy brochure might look good, but I hope members of the executive board ask questions about how that strategy is going to be financed.”
Plans include 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.
In a statement this week, Coun Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive board member with responsibility for markets, said: “Leeds Kirkgate Market plays a vital role in the city’s retail offer and is steeped in rich history and culture. We are proud that Leeds is the home of such an amazing market and, even in these difficult financial times, we’re fully committed to its long-term future.
“Due to the current UK retail environment and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, we know the next five years won’t be easy for the market which is why having a clear strategy is so important.
“I am confident that in 2026 the market will be thriving. It will continue to be an inclusive, diverse and successful part of Leeds city centre and something we can all be proud of. This strategy will play a vital part in ensuring that happens.”
The Leeds Kirkgate Market Strategy 2021-2026 is set to be discussed by Leeds City Council’s Executive Board on Wednesday March 17.