Hugely ambitious plans to retain Louth’s cattle market and redevelop its surrounding area have been put forward by a campaign group in the town.
Keep Louth Special’s Nick Louth presented the daring scheme to Louth Town Council at its meeting on August 6, pledging a ‘positive alternative’ to the possible sale of the site to a supermarket by owners East Lindsey District Council.
ELDC is currently awaiting ‘expert advice’ from a company over whether to cash in on the Newmarket site.
Mr Louth, who said could be worth as little as £5-6 million and not the £10 million previously thought, wants to redevelop the site into an agricultural centre.
Mr Louth said: “It’s easy to say ‘we don’t want this’ but the best way to react is to have a positive alternative and it needs to be something that won’t damage the town.”
He said ELDC has ‘drab plans’ to sell the site to a retailer and insisted his group’s plans are ‘what the farmers want and what the town needs’.
Plans include the renovation of the existing cattle market, an indoor climbing wall, a specialist retail park incorporating outdoor and agricultural stores, a hotel, gym and café, and turning one of the existing cattle rings into a music venue.
Mr Louth said: “The whole idea is to take the site which is used for half a day a week and make every foot of it work every day.
“This will be an all weather attraction and a great thing to come to on a rainy day.”
Mr Louth explained how solar panels on the roof of the cattle market and a rainwater collection system would save the ‘huge bills’ currently faced.
He claimed that in 2007 the site was worth £8-10 million but that had dropped to £7-9 million now, and said the value would drop further if Aldi gets approval to build a new supermarket on the Malt Kiln, and further yet by way of ELDC being bound to build a new cattle market elsewhere in the town ‘before a single brick’ can be taken off the old site.
“It does stack up, there’s very little retail development in the East Midlands at the moment and the area is lacking anything with real focus,” he continued.
“We need community support to make something which makes this town continue to be distinctive.”
The aim is to get businesses on board and pick up grants and community backing to raise the funds needed to buy or lease the site.
Mr Louth said Travelodge is ‘very interested’ in building a new hotel on the site.
Coun George Horton urged ELDC to look seriously at the proposals, but feared the council’s mind might already be made up.
“I’m always weary that they know the answer anyway,” he said.
“A supermarket may not be the way forward but housing could be, if Aldi is accepted are people like Tesco going to take a step back?”
Mr Louth said ‘housing doesn’t pay like supermarkets’, but accepted that part of Keep Louth Special’s proposals could incorporate some flats.
Coun Andrew Leonard said: “If East Lindsey were business people they would have been coming up with ideas like this many years ago, it would be short sighted on their part to just want to sell it.”
Coun Pauline Watson said she feared a collapse of the Aldi supermarket plan would ’jeopardise’ Keep Louth Special’s plans completely.
But support came from mayor of Louth Coun David Wing. He said: “I’m right behind it, I don’t think it’s doomed to failure,” and councillors voted to support the plans ‘in principle’.
ELDC’s Coun John Upsall: “The district council has taken no decision to dispose of the Louth Cattle Market site.
“The council is currently seeking advice to inform a decision as to whether the cattle market site should be formally marketed as available for redevelopment.
“Once the advice is received the council will consider its position. If in the future the site is made available for sale or lease, the district council would be keen to hear from any organisation or business which would be interested in the site, including Keep Louth Special.
“Any sale/lease would be at market value.”