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Leicester’s market place: have your say

Aerial view of the market area following demolition work

THE DEMOLITION of the old roof and the heavy wooden stalls that were home to Leicester Market has revealed the huge scale of the city’s historic market place – and provided a reminder of how the space looked for most of its past.

Archive photographs from the early 20th century show the market place as a vast open space where people would meet up with friends or gather for political rallies and national celebrations. Market stalls would be packed away when not in use, leaving the space free for festivals and other special events.

Archive photo of market place 1911
Archive photo of market square
Archive photo of market square

This view of the market place, and the attractive heritage buildings that surround it, was opened up again this year as the demolition team moved off site.

On 22 May, the City Mayor announced that work to install new permanent market stalls, lockable units and a new roof on the site would be paused. He wanted to find out what people in Leicester thought about the space, now that the site had been cleared.

People have until Friday 14 June to comment on whether plans to rebuild market infrastructure on the site should continue – or whether keeping the market place as a flexible event space, and creating a new home for the market nearby, would be a better option for ensuring the long-term vibrancy of the city centre.

Existing plan

Planning permission for a scheme on the site that would create a new café, 16 lockable units and 84 market stalls under a bespoke roof was granted in August 2023. The market traders moved to their temporary home on Green Dragon Square in November 2023, with the demolition team starting work to clear the site in March this year. A series of site investigations was due to be followed by a programme of works that would have taken around 10 months to complete.

Work on site has now paused.

Alternative proposal

The city council is determined that the market, which has been part of Leicester for more than 700 years, should continue to prosper at the heart of the city centre for many years to come.

If the current plans were to be reconsidered, and the market place were to be kept clear, a dedicated space for Leicester Market could instead be created in a purpose-built location next to the Food Hall.

Under these alternative proposals, the city council would demolish the unattractive 1970s buildings at 12-20 Market Place to create a wide cut-through to Cank Street and the shops and bars of St Martin’s Square.

The space created would accommodate a mix of market stalls and container units in an attractive and modern trading environment, protected from the elements by an elegant roof – and benefitting from increased footfall, thanks to its proximity to the Food Hall and the popular St Martin’s shopping area.

As for the market place itself, significant investment would be required to upgrade and refurbish the beautiful old buildings that surround the space, and to attract the cafés and bars that would help to animate it. The city council’s intention would be to seek funding to support the conservation work and to work with development partners to bring new life to the area.

The market place has the potential to become the significant event space that the city centre currently lacks. It could become home to the Christmas ice rink, the summer beach, live performances, outdoor cinema, food and drink festivals, national celebrations, and even open-top bus parades for the city’s sports clubs.

What do you think?

Your comments on the ideas for Leicester Market and the market place should be emailed to by Friday 14 June.


Picture captions:

  • These very early concept drawings show how the market could be accommodated in the new Market Place–Cank Street link, if the current scheme were to be reviewed. Please note that these are indicative sketches for illustration purposes only.
  • Historic images of Leicester’s market area in the early 20th century are supplied courtesy of The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland.