Public meeting to be held over city’s historic Kirkgate Market

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Traders who have raised a string of concerns about changes to historic Kirkgate Market, in Leeds, which could see it reduced in size, are stepping up their opposition campaign.

Over the coming days members of a campaign group will hand out thousands of leaflets and stage a public meeting to try to get its concerns across to members of the public.

Yesterday a spokeswoman for the Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market said of the leaflets: “We will be distributing 10,000 copies around the city in the next few days.”

Consultants produced a report on the future of the market, the biggest indoor market in Europe, which recommended an increase in delicatessens, arts and crafts stalls, and more “anchor stores” and argued the market should be reduced in size.

Earlier this year senior councillors in the city agreed, in principle, to the market being scaled back by 25 per cent and agreed that officers should draw up a feasibility report on how that could be achieved.

The report, also recommended setting up at a Limited Liability Partnership to run the market, but members of Leeds City Council’s executive committee decided further work needed to be done on how the market should be run.

Coun Keith Wakefield, council leader, reassured traders the council had no intention of privatising the market at a meeting of the council’s executive board in February.

He said: “We aren’t spending millions of pounds to lose it to a private company. It will remain in council ownership. All options for the market’s future management are open for discussion and agreement.”

Traders are worried that any changes could see it being turned into a posh food hall.

“Leeds City Council says it wants Kirkgate Market ‘to be the best market in the UK.’ Sadly, the council’s vision of the future is the stuff of nightmares,” the leaflet being distributed says.

It adds: “Kirkgate Market is one of the few places left in Leeds where people of all backgrounds rub shoulders while earning a living or doing the weekly shop - it is the People’s Market in a corporate city.”

A public meeting on the issue will be held on April 17 at 6.30pm at the Trinity Church, Boar Lane, Leeds. All are welcome.

In February the council’s executive board also agreed to reinvest up to £500,000 a year from the market’s profits which could be used to support borrowing to improve the market.

Following the executive meeting the council is starting design and feasibility studies to look at five options for the future of the market. Yesterday the local authority stressed that until the design and feasibility work is completed, no decisions will be made.

Previous council reports have highlighted a need for investment in the market.

Last night Coun Richard Lewis, the council’s executive member for development and economy said it was “under no illusions that people have very strong feelings about Kirkgate Market.”

He added: “It’s abundantly clear that the market is a real gem and will continue to have a place in Leeds’ retail experience and despite some misleading claims to the contrary, its future is not under threat. We’re totally committed to securing its long term future, and have agreed to make significant investment looking at potential options for refurbishment.

“The outcome of this feasibility work will give us the opportunity to fully explore a number of options. As part of this work, we’ll be consulting with a range of people and we want to dispel any myths or misconceptions that are being perpetuated at the moment.

”We are looking forward to a full and constructive discussion about the long term future of the market, taking on board the aspirations and comments of traders, the public and representative groups who have a passion for the market and wish to positively seek a way forward.”