Stallholders evicted from Leeds Corn Exchange

Tenants in the Leeds Corn Exchange shopping centre are being kicked out so it can be turned into a food emporium.

They only found out about the shocking changes this morning (tues) when a letter landed on their doormats revealing the owners' plans for the new year.

What do you think to these plans? Email us your thoughts by clicking here. We'll publish the lot.

The Corn Exchange was originally built for food trading nearly 150 years ago, and its owners have decided it's time to ditch the independent stalls - which have sold everything from cards to clothing and jewellery for the past 17 years - and embrace its heritage.

The historic Grade I listed building has undergone a massively disruptive 1.5million refurbishment project over the past five months which traders were up in arms over as it drove away even more of their declining trade.

Claire Roe, owner of Grin clothing store which has been successfully trading for over 15 years in the centre, said she was horrified by this morning's announcement and believed every other trader shared her feelings.

She told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "I think they're ruining a beautiful building that's been a shopping centre for 20 years.

"That's my opinion and everybody else's opinion.

"We'd been told it was going to be a shopping centre and the work was being done to make it better.

"We carried on in terrible conditions, only for them to say at the end of it, 'this is what's happening'."

She added: "We all knew something was happening because of how they've been treating us.

"They've definitely not been fair to any of us."

The building's owners Zurich Assurance want to turn it into a gourmand's paradise which they hope will attract shoppers from across the region.

The plans include opening a high-profile restauarant on the ground floor, with an array of premium local, national and international produce on sale on the first floor and units selling related non-food goods such as kitchen gadgets and utensils on the upper floor.

A spokeswoman for Phoenix Beard, which manages the centre on behalf of Threadneedle Properties – the property arm of Zurich - said they would be talking to remaining tenants to work out how they could fit them in to the new-style venue.

But for shops selling clothing and jewellery, any agreement seems unlikely.

Adrian Johnson of Central Retail, which will market the venue to potential tenants, said: "This is an exciting prospect, not just for the rejuvenation of Leeds Corn Exchange, but also for the people of Leeds who will benefit from a central destination for premium dining, food and drink.

"The scheme will serve a very large and diverse regional customer profile, drawing from neighbouring towns and cities as well as the thousands of people that actually live in the city centre.

"Leeds has become a major success story and a city with leading European status certainly deserves a world class food centre."

Talks are already under way with potential operators, including "a number of branded restaurant occupiers".

Traders have long feared for their future since Zurich Assurance bought the stunning venue.

They claimed businesses were being kicked out because they did not fit in with the owners' vision of the shopping centre in the future.

To read all your views so far, click here.

Coun Judith Blake,  leader of Leeds City Council.

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