Birmingham Wholesale Markets in Digbeth. Image: Birmingham Mail
Last week, the Birmingham Mail announced that the city’s wholesale market will be shut down. This is a blow for the traders, as well as Digbeth Residents Association, who have supported the two-year campaign against closure.
The Birmingham Wholesale Markets will be moved to either the former LDV factory site at Washwood Heath, or the former IMI site at Witton within three years. Due to the proposed HS2 train depot at Washwood Heath, this location seems unlikely, but the council believes that relocation and rationalisation (the new site would be only half the size of the existing one) is the only way to guarantee a wholesale market for the region for the next 60 years.
The Birmingham Wholesale Fresh Produce Association (BWFPA) wanted to remain in the city centre, and produced what it believed to be a financially viable solution for maintaining the current site. Unfortunately, this option was dismissed as ‘unaffordable’ by the council, who are willing to share financial details with traders, only if a confidentiality agreement is signed.
Birmingham City Council claims that private developers have already been lined up to build the new facilities to the traders’ own specifications, which the council could then manage. This is a small victory for the traders, who were initially told that the Digbeth site would be closed with no plans for relocation.
The BBC reported that the move will cause a loss in wholesale trade and increase in prices for ordinary customers: the results of an independent survey commissioned by the BWFPA discovered that a move would increases prices by £1.50 on a starter, £2.33 on a main course and £1.20 on a dessert across all restaurants in Birmingham city centre.
Many of the retailers at the Bullring Market and city centre restaurateurs rely on simply walking to the Wholesale Market for their stock. These wholesale customers will have to invest in vehicles and bear the brunt of extra time and fuel costs, or pass these onto the public. There is also a fear that wholesale prices may rise due to higher rents for traders at the new site.
Leader of Birmingham City Council, Sir Albert Bore, revealed to members of DRA at the weekend that plans for the land where the current facility sits would be largely residential, along with a mixed-use green space. We will, however, need to wait and see what actually happens come 2016.