Traders fear for the future of historic city centre market over falling takings

Leeds Kirkgate Market. Pictures: Tony Johnson.
Leeds Kirkgate Market. Pictures: Tony Johnson.
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JUST WEEKS after it was named Britain’s favourite market, traders at Kirkgate Market are fighting to keep their businesses alive.

Stall holders claim the once bustling shopping destination is now a ‘dying market’ as their rent rockets back up.

Leeds City Council offered a 20 per cent rent reduction last year to mitigate the effect of the £13.7m refurbishment of the historic site, and extended the offer until March 31.

Traders have voiced concerns that the disruption has significantly affected footfall and sales – by up to 90 per cent in some cases, with others claiming they are thousands of pounds in debt and relying on their pensions to get by.

Yesterday the rent reduction scheme came to an end, leaving many traders fearing the end may be in sight for their businesses.

Steven Mathers is a trader and member of the market’s management board. He said: “It’s in dire straits. We’ve been hit a lot worse than expected. A lot of people are surviving because the rents have been put down. If they put them back up, a lot of stalls will close down.”

Mr Mathers’s family has run a fruit stall for 80 years. He added: “All of these stalls have been handed down through families, and we will hand it down to our children. It’s the history of the market itself.”

One stall owner, who did not want to be named, said: “My takings have fallen by 90 per cent. It is very difficult. I haven’t had a wage since last January. I’ve had to use my pension to be able to carry on.”

A a spokesman for Leeds City Council said: “As part of the multi-million pound refurbishment being undertaken by the council, which when completed will include an exciting fresh produce and covered daily market area and events space, we offered traders last year a 20 per cent reduction to their rents. 
“This rent reduction was subsequently extended in October 2015 until the end of the financial year.

“The council remains absolutely committed to working closely with businesses in the market, and any traders with questions or concerns, are asked to contact the markets management team.”