As Leeds Markets prepares for the arrival of Eastgate and the city centre retail offer develops further with the arrival of Trinity Leeds, we’re looking into how to improve, develop and sustain Leeds Kirkgate Market for traders and shoppers alike.
In July 2011 Leeds City Council’s executive board of councillors agreed permissions for the team to explore a number of different possibilities including becoming an arms-length organisation; revisiting the size and layout of the space; or the possibility of the private sector holding a stake in the market. Some felt that these ideas and suggestions were unfair, unreasonable and not right for the market. Others felt that they could offer new opportunities, potential to be a little more creative with how we use the markets and a way to move forward in a modern trading environment.
Following on from this Martin Farrington, Director of Leeds City Council's Development Department commissioned Quarterbridge Management Consultancy to investigate the feasibility of some of the ideas raised at the July executive board.
The issue of how to revitalise markets across the country is hotly debated, and Leeds Markets are no exception. There are many opinions from traders, shoppers, those who love the market but want it to change, and those who are intrigued about the market but not sure if it’s for them.
The report from Quarterbridge Management Consultancy has now been completed and we’d like to share the findings with you.
The recommendations from the report are in some cases radically different and will be of interest to all who use the markets. As valued stakeholders we want to share the report with you and allow time for you to comment. Any comments received before 9th February will be included in our feedback to the Leeds City Council executive board on 10th February.
The report is up to 70 pages long, so here are a few key recommendations, but you can download the full report below should you wish to read it in full:
- Reconfiguring the overall space available to provide a 25% reduction in trade space. The overall site would remain the same size but space would be reconfigured to create a better flow for customers; better quality trading environments for traders; a balcony area could be utilised to create a food-court area to enhance the social experience in the market hall; a basement level could be added to improve servicing routes for traders.
- The view from the private sector is that sole ownership would be preferred. However, it is unlikely that Leeds City Council would agree to sell the markets in its entirety.
- The costs associated with the above suggestions are significant and in the consultants view it is also unlikely that Leeds City Council could undertake these changes without private sector support. With this in mind the report also recommend that the markets become a Limited Liability Partnership. This effectively makes Leeds Markets a jointly owned company between Leeds City Council and either a sole or a number of private sector investors. The report suggests that Leeds City Council should maintain a 25% share based on the amount of financial capital realistically available.
- Should a Limited Liability Partnership be created, the new board of shareholders may seek to appoint a private sector management company to oversee day-to-day management of the markets and its future development.
These are in some ways controversial recommendations that seek to significantly reposition the market. At this stage they are only recommendations on what would be feasible taking into account current market conditions, costs, research into interest from the private sector and the current operating conditions of Leeds Markets.
These recommendations will not be the only factor influencing the future of Leeds Market.
A team of senior experts from within the council have also been researching planning restrictions, legal implications, land values and the private sector mood towards the idea of Leeds Markets either in sole ownership or as a partnership.
A report taking into account all of the research over the last six months will be prepared by Cath Follin, Head of City Centre and Markets. This report will be made publicly available for comment 3rd February.
It is important to us that we're honest with you. No decisions have been made at this stage, but in order to survive and flourish Leeds Markets does need to change and the current financial strains experienced by public sectors across the country offer limited opportunities for this.
The Leeds Markets team have worked hard over the last 18 months to assess the current situation, grow new markets and raise the profile of our retail offer, but we do recognise that market conditions have and continue to evolve. As new developments take shape and competition increases Leeds Markets needs to be in a stronger position to take advantage of new footfall and retain our existing customers. As a team we accept the need to change and this is the first step in understanding how.
But, to be able to implement any changes effectively we need to know what you think.
There are no hidden agendas. We would like to have an honest and open conversation with all of our stakeholders about how to move forward. We’d like you to read the report and leave comments, suggestions, ideas and your views on the report and the future of Leeds Markets before we make any decisions.
We’ll try to respond where we can and will follow your comments and conversations on twitter, if you could use the hashtag #LeedsMarket this will help us to capture your views.
Leeds Markets Manager
Leeds City Council
Click here to download the full report (1.7Mb).