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Traders consult lawyers over forced move of markets from Digbeth

Traders consult lawyers over forced move of markets from Digbeth

🕔25.Mar 2013

marketA decision by Birmingham City Council to move the wholesale market out of Digbeth could be challenged in the courts.

Traders at the adjoining retail markets, who sell fish, meat, vegetables and fruit direct to the public, have taken legal advice and claim that they were not properly consulted about the move, which they fear will have a devastating impact on their profitability.

Most of the retail market traders rely on the close proximity of the wholesale markets in Pershore Street to buy produce with minimum transportation costs.

The decision to build a new wholesale market several miles away at either Washwood Heath or Witton would make it more difficult and expensive for the retail stallholders to source cheap food and would threaten to put paid to 900 years of markets at Digbeth, according to the traders.

Labour council leaders insist they have no option but to close the loss-making wholesale markets within two or three years and build a smaller version out of the city centre.

The cost of building a new market on the Digbeth site or refurbishing the existing buildings is not financially viable according to deputy council leader Ian Ward, although he is refusing to disclose cost details on the grounds of commercial sensitivity.

A cabinet meeting agreed to press ahead with developing a business case for building new wholesale markets on one of the two proposed sites and a final decision will be taken later in the year. The existing site, less than a quarter of a mile away from the Bullring shopping centre, is considered to be extremely valuable and will be redeveloped by the council.

Cllr Ward said he had received a letter from solicitors acting for the retail markets traders asking the cabinet to postpone any decision until further consultation had taken place. The letter warned that transferring the wholesale markets from Digbeth would be “prejudicial” to the retail markets.

However, Cllr Ward added that he believed full and proper consultation had been carried out.

He said the council would do all that it could to support the retail markets once the wholesale markets disappear from the city centre.

It has become clear that both the wholesale market and retail market traders are working closely together to make the case that each relies on the other for commercial success.

Wholesale Markets chairman Mark Tate said: “The retail markets provide a vital link in the food supply chain and tend to serve those groups that would be least able to cope with food price inflation and lack of access to low cost fresh foods.

“One of the main reasons they operate so cost effectively in Birmingham is because of their proximity to the wholesale market.”

Mr Tate said the wholesale market traders wanted to remain on their present site, although in a smaller form, and work closely with the retail markets “as a business hub building on Birmingham’s importance for food”.

He added: “We believe there are many delicate inter-relationships with staff, customers and suppliers as well as the retail markets which would be adversely impacted by moving from the current site.”

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