Councillors hit out at market lobbyists

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senior councillors have hit out at a group of lobbyists for Leeds’s Kirkgate Market – branding them a “stumbling block” to the much-anticipated redevelopment of the historic shopping hub.

At a meeting of Leeds city council’s executive board, several panel members criticised Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market (FOLKM), a group which has led vociferous calls over the past few months for faster progress on a promised £12.3m “kiss of life” for the market.

Coun Richard Lewis, Leeds council’s development and economy portfolio holder, told the meeting: “FOLKM concern me greatly. I find them very negative and they are not doing what they should do, which is come and talk to us.”

Coun Mark Dobson, the city’s environment lead, said a “watershed moment” for the market has now arrived, and “we have come a long way from the position we were in”. But, as members of the campaign group listened from the public gallery, he said FOLKM’s “negative attitude” could be a “stumbling block to those ambitions” and told the group: “Don’t become an oxymoron. Work with us in a constructive way. “The door is open.”

The panel was also told that FOLKM was not being a “constructive friend” to traders.

Speaking after the meeting, FOLKM member Sara Gonzalez said the comments from some councillors were “unfortunate” and the panel “did not really discuss the issues”.

“Our job is to scrutinize what they do and hold them to account,” she said. “We just want to see that low prices are protected and people who use the market are protected. We would never say we represent all the traders. We are just customers and members of the public, although we have strong links with many traders.”

She added: “We have been trying to get a meeting [with key council figures] for weeks and that has not happened. It’s now time to get on with the development.”