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Hopes rise for Birmingham Wholesale Markets rescue plan

Hopes rise for Birmingham Wholesale Markets rescue plan

🕔21.Mar 2012

Birmingham’s historic Wholesale Markets may be able to remain on its existing city centre site as part of a multi-million regeneration deal.

Consultants hired by the market traders say they are talking to a prospective developer and are confident that an agreement can be reached to provide a modern market building and meet redevelopment guidelines for the area laid down by the city council.

The future of the markets and the 21 acres it occupies on the edge of the city centre has placed council leaders in a difficult position.

The Pershore Street operation makes a £500,000-a-year loss for the council, the buildings are unfit for purpose and the valuable site has been earmarked by the local authority for sweeping redevelopment under ambitious proposals set out in the Big City Plan.

However, restaurants, shops and retail markets from all over the Midlands rely on buying competitively priced goods by making early morning trips to Birmingham’s wholesale markets to stock upon meat, fish, vegetables and flowers.

At the height of the property boom five years ago, council leaders boasted of making as much as £50 million from selling the Pershore Street site. Some of the money would have been used to relocate the markets to a site on the edge of the city.

Attempts to move the markets to Witton fell through last year when development partner PRUPIM pulled out. The firm said the cost of borrowing and loss of grant made the scheme unviable.

Since then, the city’s Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition has found itself up against a popular campaign to retain the wholesale markets. A save our markets petition has attracted 23,000 signatures even though no decision to close the operation has been taken and the council has stated several times that traders will not be forced to move against their will.

Market operators insist they want to remain on the current site and are talking to the council about possible options. A report setting out proposals is expected to be completed by the early summer, and is expected to become an early test of Labour resolve if the party takes control of the city council in May.

Eddie Price, from consultants Technolink, told the council’s business management committee that recent discussions with a possible developer represented a “game-changing moment”.

Mr Price added: “We have had very constructive talks. I think we are getting somewhere now.

“We are passionately convinced about the value to Birmingham of the wholesale markets.”

 

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