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Fear for the future of Kirkgate Market

Leeds Kirkgate Market recently celebrated its 200th birthday, but its traders remain concerned over its future.

Front Entrance of Leeds Kirkgate Market
Getty Images Exterior​ of Kirkgate Market, the largest covered market in Europe, Leeds, United Kingdom

Despite being one of the largest indoor markets in Europe, Covid and the cost-of-living crisis have had a significant impact on market activity, creating lessening footfall and empty stalls.

Whilst the Leeds City Council continue to renovate areas of the market, pledging to complete one area by December of this year, it remains to be seen if this will address shared concerns over increased expenses for traders and customers alike.

Steve Fitzpatrick, who has been working at The Baobab Tree for seven years, was doubtful of his future as he said: “If things don’t start improving, I would say within the next year or so, I’ll be packing up.”

Mr Fitzpatrick’s main concern was the price of rent, as he said he could get a shop “double the size for the same price” in his home area of York.

The issue of high rent has been raised with the council, as we were told by an ex-member of the Kirkgate Market management board, who preferred to remain anonymous.

However, he said the repeated failure to address the issues had made him quit his position on the board as their attempts were “going nowhere”.

Leeds City Council are currently facing their own fiscal problems, as issues like the emptying stalls in Kirkgate Market and other outdoor markets have cost them £700,000 in lost rent.

Aside from rent prices, Tyler Dean, a resident fishmonger, and Anna Cepurnaja, a member of a spice stall, both said they have been forced to increase their product prices due to increase in costs further up the chain – an issue which Mr Dean said had cut his expected custom by two to three times.

Further issues of spending relate to nearby parking as previous visitors to the market have taken to Facebook to claim that any savings they could still possibly make by shopping at the market, as opposed to a supermarket are outweighed by the lack of affordable parking.

Tyrone, a new worker for the Council within the market, has witnessed first-hand the changes to the market as he visited as a six-year-old boy in the seventies.

Like others, he sees the market as “not what it used to be” and suggests the rise of internet shopping has impacted footfall.

The issue of restoring the market has been addressed by the Council who have sectioned off ‘Butcher’s Row’ for renovation, due to open in late December.

However, if these renovations will be complete was questioned by Mr Fitzpatrick who said: “We’ve been here seven years, Butcher’s Row was closed when we got here.”

Despite this, throughout the market there is some positivity as Georgia Waldron, a cafe worker within the market, said: “I love the market… There’s such a nice community spirit.”

Yet, she too felt this was accompanied by a disappointing downward turn for the overall fate of the market.

The Council were reached out to for comment.

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