Struggling shop owners in Wakefield city centre are demanding answers over the delayed multi-million pound development of the old market hall, saying they face closure because of plummeting profits.
This coming February will be exactly four years since the council announced the hall would shut and a cinema and chain restaurant complex opened.
Many market traders have long since moved out, but planning permission for the site has still not been secured.
Business owners on Northgate say that with the market almost gone, takings have nosedived because of a lack of passing trade.
They question why the council began asking market traders to leave before the plans were even in place.
Lloyds Pharmacy is due to shut in January because of cutbacks, and there are fears others could quickly follow.
Julie Firth, who runs the Delphi cafe and restaurant adjacent to the site, says that since the initial announcement in 2014 she has lost tens of thousands of pounds a year.
She said: “We’ve had a massive drop in footfall, we are all suffering and we’re all waiting for this development.
“It would be competition but at least it would bring people down here. I don’t know how much longer we can hold on, if we’re still here in six months’ time, it would be a miracle.”
Mohammed Azeem, who runs A2Z Essentials added: “We are struggling to make ends meet, we just don’t get people around here anymore. With no market or anything taking its place at the moment, it’s killed it off. We just don’t know where we are with the market hall, I can’t see a future here to be honest.”
Zena Walker, who has George’s DIY opposite the hall described the loss of footfall area as being like ‘rats deserting a sinking ship’ while Rizwan Neki, whose newsagent is the last remaining external unit of the hall in use, added: “I’m only surviving because of my regular customers, but I can’t continue like it is.”
A handful of traders still operate in the market hall and are still waiting to be served their six-month notices to leave, which legally, Wakefield Council has to provide.
Despite being largely empty, the heating and lighting is running daily at a cost to the council.
Wakefield Council’s Andrew Wallhead, corporate director for regeneration, has said the council is ‘confident’ the planning application will be determined shortly.
He said: “Delivering major developments like this are a lengthy process. The council, like many of the local businesses, are keen to see this project progress and look forward to the proposed development, boosting both the day and the night-time family economy.”