Current Birmingham Wholesale Market site 'ideal'

Peter Marshall and Keith Smith Traders fear the move will lead to fewer customers

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Traders at Birmingham's Wholesale Market say they are "shocked" by plans to close the site and move it outside the city centre.

The city council, which owns the site, has unveiled recommendations to move the market to Witton or Washwood Heath in 2016 as it "simply cannot afford the investment needed" to maintain the current site in Digbeth.

But Peter Marshall, vice chairman of Birmingham Wholesale Fresh Produce Association, said the "six million dollar question" was whether their current customers would follow traders to a new site.

Traders say neighbouring Chinese restaurants and markets are the market's main customers.

Mr Marshall said: "Where we are now is ideal. We are in the middle of the Chinese quarter.

"We have got the [Bullring] open air market which we serve. If we were to move - the open air market they would have to buy lorries and vans to get the produce from wherever we finish up, up to their place."

Mr Marshall said he did not think the council had "thought through" the impact of such a move on the other markets and the effect on the environment and city parking from the need for additional vehicles.

"They [other markets] move a lot of produce - affordable produce for the people of Birmingham," he said.

The Labour-run council said the current market in Pershore Street includes a 1970s building which had "come to the end of its life", safety issues - such as lighting problems as well as units which were "not fit for purpose".

However, Mr Marshall said the council "had let it run down" through years of under investment.

Keith Smith, who runs fish supplier Caterfish, said his unit at the site was not perfect but there was "nothing major" wrong with it.

He said the 20-year-old business had been hit by the recession and he was worried it would lose more customers if it moved.

Wholesale market entrance The council said the 1970s buildings need replacing

Mr Smith is also worried about the costs of relocating.

He backed a different option for the market's future, which the council had dropped.

"I had wanted to stay on the site and see a 15-year refurbishment plan," he said.

Meanwhile, Mark Tate, owner of fruit and vegetable wholesalers George Perry Limited, said the relocation plans were "a disgrace".

He said the move would ultimately lead to more costs for the open air market and the residents who relied on it.

"It will push the price of produce up," he said.

Traders have asked the council to see the costs of remaining in Digbeth as well as how much it would cost to build a market on one of the new sites.

The council said the figures were "confidential" but it has agreed to discuss them privately with traders at a meeting on Wednesday.

Ian Ward, deputy leader of the council, said he wanted to work with traders over the plans which he believed would secure the future of the wholesale market "for the next 60 years".

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