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Leicester's indoor market in line for £7m revamp

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Plans to demolish Leicester's 1970s indoor market and replace it with a new public square in the city centre have been unveiled.

Under the £7 million scheme, the five-storey hall would make way for a plaza behind the Corn Exchange building in the heart of the market.

A new timber and glass pavilion – housing the fish, meat and cheese traders – would be built on the side of the 19th century building, now used as a bar, in the area which was only recently unveiled as the £650,000 Market Corner development by Leicester City Council.

City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby had originally intended to replace the market hall with a new building on the same site, but said he felt the scheme unveiled yesterday would make the historic Corn Exchange the central focus of the market once again.

The council intends to borrow cash to pay for the redevelopment against the £650,000 annual income the market brings in.

Sir Peter said: "The market has been at the heart of the city for many centuries and it does make us a surplus, so it makes business sense to invest in it.

"To say the current building is looking tired would be about the politest thing you could say about it.

"It was never a brilliant building and while it may have looked good on paper many years ago, it has never really worked.

"It is dark and badly ventilated. It's now time to move on."

The pavilion will take in the nine fresh meat, fish and cheese vendors who currently operate in the market hall, and a new area of lock-up stalls is proposed for the 29 other traders who sell so-called dry-goods – such as haberdashery – in the corner of the market closest to the iron gateway to Gallowtree Gate.

Adrian Pole, who runs Country Fayre, has worked at the indoor market for 30 years and welcomes the scheme.

"The traders work in a building that is almost derelict," said Mr Pole.

"It's awful and we survive only because we have a very loyal customer base.

"Moving to the new building would be a platform to increase trade and I think it could draw visitors back into the area."

Fruit and veg stall holder Paddy Deevey, who is chairman of the Leicester Branch of the National Market Traders Federation, said: "The market has needed this kind of investment for many years.

"It will not only improve things for the traders, though.

"The market has a knack of surviving, but the area around the periphery is in need of brightening up and I think these plans look exciting."

Haberdasher Dave Swingler said: "Something needs doing. As the market hall has degenerated, trade has fallen away but I think this could turn things round."

Sir Peter said he does not plan to raise the rates traders paid when they move into the new hall.

He said: "It would be suicidal for the council to do all this and then put the rents up to a level that makes traders walk away."

The vintage market and bric-a-brac market which is held on Market Corner would move to Cheapside until the new square between the Corn Exchange and Molly O'Grady's pub is completed. Then it may move to that space.

Subject to getting planning permission, the council hopes to complete the new food hall, which has been designed on the line of similar buildings in Barcelona and Madrid, by Christmas next year.

The traders in the existing market hall would then relocate to allow its demolition, costing £1 million, without disrupting their business.

Leicester Civic Society chairman Stuart Bailey said: "It's certainly ambitious. I applaud the idea but I think the design of the new building looks odd.

"It's all curves in a place which has very angular buildings. I also think the new square would be a bit hemmed in by very tall buildings."

Shopper John Barratt, 61, from Aylestone, said: "A public square sandwiched between two pubs sounds like it's asking for trouble.

"It's fine wanting something like Barcelona, but this is Leicester. You can't turn it into something it's not."

However, pet stall holder Kate Chamberlin said: "I think it's great. The fresh food is a great draw for the market, but for years it has been hidden away in a building that is a mess. This will help us all."

Chairman of the Leicester Retail Forum Peter Wilkinson said: "It looks good, but I think the mayor is proposing something very complex, especially at the back of the Corn Exchange."

Traders are now being consulted on the plan with a wider six week public consultation starting on January 11.

Leicester's indoor market in line for £7m revamp


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