Saturday, 8 December 2012

Leeds Kirkgate Market: another update

Exactly ten months have flown by since I last wrote about Leeds market. A lot can happen in ten months right?

In the case of the ongoing saga of market redevelopment, plenty has happened on the noise and conjecture and waffle and repeat consultations front, but little to nothing has happened on the ground.

Back in February this year there was an informal consultation opportunity off the back of the first consultant's report commissioned in late 2011. This then led to the engagement of some new consultant's to carry out a more detailed feasibility study and a more formal public consultation. This proper consultation exercise ran from April through to July. I didn't partake in it, having thought that the informal invitation to comment, just two months previously, might have been the relevant forum for my thoughts.

It's not clear what happened to the comments from the pseudo-consultation in February, but the feedback from the April to July consultation has been used to create the question set for another consultation that's currently underway. I can't work out when this consultation started, as the link to it is on a post confusingly dated 8th May 2012, despite the fact it then goes on to discuss the consultation that took place from April to July this year. What is clear is that this consultation closes on 14th December, so if you haven't responded yet you've got six days left to do so.

Are you still with me? Straightforward this isn't it?

So what of the consultation that you've got six days left to respond to? You can find it here.

It's quick and easy to complete. First there is a list of twelve different things that you have to rate as high, medium or low priority. Some of them are no-brainers, like 'fixing the basics'. Low priority for me, let's do the cool stuff and watch the rest fall down! Others are trickier to assess, like 'creating a heart'. In theory I think this is a high priority, but the devil will be in the detail.

The elephant in the room, as ever, is 'reducing the size'. In the booklet that accompanies the consultation, each of the twelve things to be done is presented with some text that starts 'You said...' followed by some fairly unequivocal commentary suggesting that the majority of responses to the last consultation were on the same wavelength.

Except for 'reducing the size', which states 'You said…. Some people wanted the market to be smaller, and some did not'. Err, so who was in the majority then? Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market have obtained the consultation responses, and have discovered that only 70 people, out of the 3000 or so who responded, said that the market should be made smaller.

So the fact that this aspect has made it onto the list of twelve options, apparently all informed by the previous consultation, is dishonest to say the least. If anything about the size was going to be on there, it should have said 'changing the size', and not reducing it.

The next, and possibly most important part of the survey is on the management of the market. Interestingly no options are presented here. You are just asked whether you have a preference on how the market is managed, then if you say yes there's a free text field where you have 2000 characters to explain how you'd like it to be managed.

Again, I believe this is disingenuous, as the responses are far more likely to be disparate and incoherent as no clearly defined options are presented, and it takes a hell of a lot more effort to think up your own sensible ideas and type them up than it does to consider some options and tick a box.

For what it's worth I re-iterated my view that some form of mutual or social enterprise could be an innovative and novel management model, and that with the backing and support of the Council it could be a great success, and that this notion that the only possible way to secure investment is for the private sector to take control is essentially bollocks, as the private sector just borrows the money against future returns, which is something the Council or a Council backed organisation could do as well, and probably at cheaper rates, and that there are even established mechanisms for public sector organisations to do just that (like the Public Works Loan Board for example).

I'd be absolutely astounded if anything like I've just described ever happens, but you never know. At this stage it's essentially as you were. After this consultation closes the Council Executive Board should be making some decisions in early 2013. What those decisions will cover, how well they'll be informed by the results of the latest consultation and whether we'll get to see any real action remains to be seen.

In the meantime, there are still some good things to be found in the market, and even the occasional new opening, so keep shopping there. I don't do so very often these days, having moved to Sheffield whose splendid but architecturally unfashionable Castle Market is already doomed, but I still try to pop into Kirkgate whenever I'm in town.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...