Halifax market is "not fit for purpose" blast angry traders after water damage

External view of scaffolding at Halifax Borough Market at the Market Street side of the Victorian indoor market in Halifax town centre.
External view of scaffolding at Halifax Borough Market at the Market Street side of the Victorian indoor market in Halifax town centre.

Angry market holders in Halifax say enough is enough after shops were flooded, ruining thousands of pounds worth of stock.

Business owners say repair work to properties above the market have led to rain water leaking onto their premises.

Halifax Borough Market trader Sikandar Ail, of Smokers Corner

Halifax Borough Market trader Sikandar Ail, of Smokers Corner

Sikandar Ali, 33, who helps run the Smoker's Corner shop in the market, and is also vice-president of the Traders' Association, said: "Back in December, we got a leak but they couldn't find out where it was.

"We started putting buckets up there, which seemed to help.

"It happened again in January, again in February, and then in March there was heavy rain which overfilled the buckets and it went into the shop.

"It was on the lighting, so they switched my electrics off for a month. Obviously it's impossible to trade in the dark.

Cath's Cards, a stall in Halifax Borough Market, has been hit by water damage

Cath's Cards, a stall in Halifax Borough Market, has been hit by water damage

"My electrics were then switched back on. They did some kind of temporary fix on my drain, which is in the middle upstairs, by blocking it off.

"But all the water has just been redirected, the drains have overflowed, all the water has gone into the flats above and leaked down onto the shops.

"The damage is ten times worse than six months ago."

Sikander estimates the cost of the latest water damage will easily reach £5,000.

"Last time it was about £2,000. This time round, I'm trying to salvage what I can, but it's going to be thousands again," he said.

"Luckily the really expensive stuff has survived, but I can guarantee they'll turn up on Friday for their rent, which they did last time.

"We're stuck in a rut, basically. It's been going on for months.

"It's a brick wall. We had to put temporary lights in ourselves. If it was up to them we'd still be trading in the dark.

"You hear stories about other people who got flooded near the top of the market last year who are still waiting to hear back.

"So it doesn't look like the battle's in our favour whatsoever.

"It's supposed to be a dry, indoor market. That's what we pay for.

"But whenever it rains, if it's not us, it's someone else affected.

"The forecast all week is for rain, but is anyone going to bother to come down? They haven't for the past six months.

"The council tell you one thing but do another. The building's not fit for purpose, it really isn't.

"Come winter, the heating's off, but to legally trade, the building has to be a certain temperature.

"But we were told we have to put our own heating in. But it's not the heating of the shops that was the issue, it was the heating of the whole market.

"And then we were told it was up to the customers if they wanted to come in.

"They've neglected it for so many years. The chimney's are basically falling off the building.

"It's a listed building which they haven't looked after, and now they're spending £2m propping up the chimneys.

"That's not helping footfall. Retail's in a bad way as it is, we've got a million and one things to battle."

Cath Smith, 58, owns Cath's Cards, and says she cried when she saw what had happened to her shop.

"It's just devastating," she said. "I had an ongoing problem where water was going under the threshold of a door upstairs, but it got fixed.

"Since then, because next door and the one after were getting water in every time it rained, they put loads of sandbags up there, which have diverted all the water and the rubble in the gulleys.

"But it's been going on for years.

"A guy at the top of the market put a claim in 18 months ago after he had a burst pipe, and still hasn't been paid.

"You've got thousands of pounds worth of stock that they expect you to be able to just replace. This could be the end for me, I've lost that much.

"I've lost thousands. We can't trade because we have no electric and it's such a mess. Brand new carpet - that's ruined.

"Plus there's all the stock in the drawers that's been penetrated by the water.

"You have to hold onto everything for the insurance, but what are you supposed to do with it?"

When asked what her message to Calderdale Council would be, Cath said: "Pull your finger out and get something done with this place, because they're just letting it rot basically.

"I've worked in this market for 40 years and it's got to the point where you're thinking 'I've had enough'. Is this just going to happen again?

"It's not just us. The phone shop nearby has been flooded upteen times.

"Then you try to claim and they just don't want to know. 'Sorry we've lost your paperwork, can you do it again?'

"It's just excuses for not paying out."

Oscar Ali, who has owned a clothing shop in the market for about 15 years, said: "This is a brand new roof, which cost £250,000, and it's leaking.

"There have been so many problems in the last year. There were big rats in the market, all over the place.

"I think they chewed through about 20 of my jackets, which I had to throw away.

"Now I'm having to protect my jackets from the water, but once they're stained, who's going to buy them?

"I've already lost some, and when you're selling jackets for £45-£50, I can't afford it.

"If they're not going to do anything, I'll go.

"If you're thinking at home when you're supposed to be relaxing 'is it raining?', 'what's happening to my stock?' you can't sleep properly.

"They're not doing anything about it. It's shocking."

Coun Jane Scullion, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Resources, said: “We’re sorry about the impact of heavy rainfall on some of the Borough Market tenants. The talented traders and their distinctive products and services are integral to the success of the market, and we want them to be happy there.

“Unfortunately the rain was so heavy over the weekend that it overwhelmed the Victorian drains in our historic market hall and caused water to leak into part of the building. They simply weren’t designed for such extreme weather conditions, but we are doing all we can to rectify this.

“The Borough Market is a much-loved shopping and meeting place and a key part of our local heritage, so we’re carrying out a major regeneration programme to revitalise the beautiful Grade II* listed building into a 21st century shopping, eating, entertainment and social venue in the heart of Halifax town centre. As part of this, we have recently invested almost £500,000 on roof works and improvements to the Market Street façade. Further phases of improvements to the roof are planned, but these have to be managed while enabling the market and its traders to continue to operate.

“The upgrade will also include improving the heating, lighting and toilet facilities; making the most of the market’s exquisite architecture and great historical significance; and broadening its appeal to bring in more people. The new, flexible gathering space is already proving popular. Building on this investment, the Council has recently been shortlisted and invited to submit a business case to the national Future High Streets Fund. The market is a central focus of this bid and, if successful, will lever further significant investment into the market and other parts of the town.

“The Borough Market has an exciting future and we want our current traders, and new ones, to be part of it.”