Bimingham City’s Wholesale Markets are on the move with two locations on the edge of the City currently being looked at, The Hub, Witton, north west Birmingham and LDV, Washwood Heath, north Birmingham. There are many traders who have some fear about the move, however it will provide a secure future for all the markets.
Birmingham City Council’s Deputy Leader, Councillor Ian Ward, said: “The future of a wholesale market in Birmingham will be secured for the next 60 years, if Cabinet agrees the recommendations of officers on 25th March. I do not believe that there won’t be a wholesale market in the city and I made a commitment to secure its future many months ago when I first came into office and spoke to the traders.
“The indication is that we simply cannot afford the investment needed to continue with a wholesale market on the current site. Any solution needs to be affordable to both the city council and the traders, which is why the report will recommend moving the wholesale market to Witton or Washwood Heath.
“I know this is not what the traders want to hear, but we are in challenging financial times and the difficult choice is simply that if we want a wholesale market in the city of Birmingham then we need to consider the relocation proposals.
“I understand that there is a close relationship between the wholesale and retail (open, indoor, rag) markets and believe these recommendations, to be considered by Cabinet, will secure the future of all markets.
“I have talked to traders from both the wholesale and retail markets, not only about these proposals, but also about doing what I can to develop the city centre site for the retail markets and increase the footfall from the Bullring.
“And I have committed to the traders to visit the site next week to further understand their business.
“We have no statutory duty to provide a wholesale market, but we recognise that it is important to the local economy and the food supply chain, which is why the report will propose relocation to either The Hub, in Witton, or LDV, in Washwood Heath.
“Years of tradition will be upheld by providing a modern and fit-for-purpose wholesale market, but the traders have to work with us to secure its long-term future. The current wholesale market has reached the end of its economic life and it is recognised by everyone involved that it is too big for current and future needs.
“I know this isn’t the traders’ preferred option, but neither did they rule it out. Refurbishment or redevelopment of the current site simply isn’t affordable in the current financial climate. Whatever Cabinet chooses to do will be supported by taxpayers’ money so we have to ensure value for money, and as well as being affordable to the city council, it has to be affordable and sustainable to the traders themselves.
“However, we need to understand that wholesale markets across the country have been in decline over the last 20 years – here in Birmingham occupancy has declined to a 30 per cent vacancy rate in just the last few years.
“Yes, there is still a demand from both tenants and customers for these facilities, but they have to adapt to meet the changing market place. For example, no other wholesale market in the UK is co-located with its retail food markets and very few are based in city centres. Having the market outside the city centre would provide better transport links, particularly considering that the majority of the traders’ business comes from either outside of Birmingham or from the suburbs rather than the city centre.
“While a number of options have been carefully considered and costed, following extensive consultation with traders and customers, I believe this is the best option for both the survival of the wholesale market and for the continuing transformation of the city centre.”
Five options were taken forward for full evaluation:
15 year refurbishment;
30 year refurbishment;
redevelopment to include a new wholesale market;
relocation to Witton;
and relocation to Washwood Heath.
Detailed evaluation has considered: financial impact on the city council; job creation; whether it was fit for purpose; location and relationship with wider city regeneration.
The City Council have listened to the traders about how a new market should be designed and, subject to the Cabinet decision, they intend that as the two schemes are developed as part of the full business case they will involve them in that process.
The two relocation options are:
The Hub, Witton, north west Birmingham
The proposed new market would be constructed on a site of about 15 acres. Incorporated alongside the new 190,000 sq ft market would be 400 car parking spaces, warehousing and waste management facilities. The city council would continue to manage the markets but would consider ways in which it can involve the wholesale traders in its management to reduce costs. The new market would be expected to be operational by April 2016.
LDV, Washwood Heath, north Birmingham
The proposed new market would be built on a site of 14.5 acres. In addition to the new market the site would include warehousing, waste management facilities and extensive car parking. Whilst the city council has the option to manage this facility, the developer has offered to undertake this as well and this is something to be consider, taking into account the traders’ views.