Bradford’s St James Market could be moved to a former landfill site near the M606 as part of a bid to create a “Northern Food Hub.”
The wholesale market is already one of the biggest in Yorkshire, has a turnover of £50m a year and is currently operating at maximum capacity.
But operators Bradford Council say the existing site – off Wakefield Road, offers no space to expand.
The Council has now announced that it has signed an ‘Option to Purchase’ an unused former landfill land at Staithgate Lane to build a replacement market.
The authority argues that the new location, next to the M606, will enable to market to expand and become the go-to supplier for Northern restaurants and food businesses.
The existing eight-acre market site has been earmarked as the future location of a Bradford station on Northern Powerhouse Rail.
Although that plan seemed dead in the water after Boris Johnson announced the line would effectively be scrapped last November, new Prime Minister Liz Truss recently pledged to move forward with the line and a Bradford station.
And a recent report by the Transport Select Committee confirmed the St James’ Market site was suitable for such a station.
Bradford Council had included a “food hub of the North” in its recent plans to regenerate the area around the M606.
Other plans for this area would be the transformation of Odsal Stadium, the creation of a park and ride and a new solar farm – schemes that are currently reliant on a £50m bid to Government for Levelling Up cash.
On the possible new market site, a Council spokesman said: “Bradford’s St James Market is already the biggest wholesale market site in Yorkshire and the North East, and this latest phase means the council can push ahead with its ambitions to create a new larger and more accessible modern wholesale market as part of a northern food hub which would create more jobs and strengthen the local and regional food distribution network.
“The current wholesale market is fully let and the land at its present location is at maximum capacity. The new site satisfies the demand from existing businesses for expansion and gives the opportunity for new businesses to open to take advantage of over 500 local and regional retailers that use the market each week.
“The existing market supports over 30 small and medium size businesses and is located on an eight acre site on the edge of the city centre, just off the congested Wakefield Road (A650). It generates about £50m turnover per annum and provides employment for over 400 local people, supplying hotels, restaurants, cafes, takeaways and catering suppliers as well as independent supermarkets, shops and market stalls.”
The signing of the ‘Option to Purchase’ document means the council can progress with plans to develop a massive food distribution centre “supporting and accessing the independent retail, catering and food service sectors across the whole of the North.”
The new facility would create a wholesale market with fresh and processed foods including meat, fish and fruit and vegetables as well as a bakery and flowers from a site with close to the major northern transport links.
The Council also says the move will divert large delivery vehicles away from the city centre and Wakefield Road.
Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, said: “We have huge ambitions for the Bradford district including being the leading clean growth city district and creating this new larger, greener modern food hub serving the whole of northern and central England and beyond forms part of that plan. Relocating from the current St James market site frees up land in the city centre for a much needed through station in the city centre which Prime Minister Liz Truss recently pledge commitment to. Delivering on that commitment would be an important step towards truly ‘levelling up’ the north.”
Nigel Jenney at Fresh Produce Consortium, which includes some of the country’s top food & flower importers and growers, said: “The signing of the ‘Option to Purchase’ for this land to create a northern food hub is a significant move and would promote food security and a streamlined supply chain.”
The Conservative opposition on the Council has supported the move, saying it “Ticks the right boxes.”
Councillor Rebecca Poulsen, leader of the Conservatives, said, “Any news about the creation of more jobs in the Bradford District is welcome and this scheme seems to tick the right boxes.
“The easy access to the motorway network and the ability to expand to meet identified need for existing food wholesale businesses and also newcomers is a good use of this site.
“The freeing up of the St James site may also be beneficial due to the Prime Minister’s commitment to a Northern Powerhouse Railway station in Bradford, which will be a huge boost to the local economy and employment options for local residents. My Conservative Group colleagues and I support the proposals”