Pressure from the government could force through the sale of Louth Cattle Market to a supermarket chain, according to council chiefs.
East Lindsey District Council (ELDC) announced on Friday that it will seek ‘expert advice’ over whether to cash in on the Newmarket site after ‘significant interest’ from major supermarket retailers.
But it has been confirmed that a Royal Charter set up in 1974 means Louth MUST have a cattle market, and it is stressed that the current site is ‘very much open for business’.
ELDC portfolio holder for finance, Coun John Upsall, admitted the authority was being pressed by the government to be ‘mindful of its assets’ in the current climate.
The site has long been desirable for major retailers who want to get a foothold in Louth, and was last year identified by the £25,000 Nathaniel Lichfield study as the town’s prime location for a large supermarket.
Coun Upsall said a relocation of the cattle market would bring ‘new opportunities for Louth’.
Six independent firms will now bid for the contract to advise the council on the best course of action and a report will be presented to its executive board in September.
“The cattle market clearly needs updating so we might as well look at the site as a whole,” said Coun Upsall.
“If it was sold we would probably look for another site, one where the premises could be used every day of the week.
“The government are pressing us to be mindful of our assets.”
Corporate asset manager Gary Sargeant confirmed Coun Upsall’s claim, admitting the council could be forced to ‘sweat’ its assets.
But ELDC is insistent that its announcement over the fate of the cattle market is in the name of being ‘open and transparent’ with the taxpayer.
Bosses also refused to be drawn on the value of the site, insisting that would be determined by the ‘level of interest’ and the nature of any forthcoming planning application.
But the decision to seemingly welcome offers for the cattle market site came as no surprise to Louth Civic Trust, who believe the announcement follows a familiar pattern.
“Louth Civic Trust have been expecting an announcement of this sort for some months,” said chairman James Laverack.
“This can only be seen as the next step in a process which started in 2008 with ELDC nationally advertising for ‘expressions of interest’ in the site, this was followed by an ELDC commissioned report about the sustainability of another supermarket in the town and then in 2012 a planning application on behalf of an anonymous party was submitted for a cattle market on the industrial estate and approved by ELDC.”
ELDC say no conversations have been had with the applicant who was given approval for a cattle market on the Fairfield Industrial Estate last year, and will still build their own cattle market if the current site is sold.
Keep Louth Special said it feels a new supermarket would pose a ‘serious threat’ to local businesses.
Chairman Alan Mumby said: “KLS has always tried to be positive and supportive towards the council - we are not in the business of simply opposing the development of the cattle market site, nor are we opposed to change.
“Our main concern is that ELDC may simply go for the quick buck without first thoroughly assessing the long term effect that this may have on the town.
“There are growing indications that this is exactly what has happened with regard to parking, with shops already reporting a loss of footfall.”
Russell Jeanes, of Louth Market Auctioneers, said they were ‘committed’ to running a cattle market in the town.
Louth Cattle Market - History
The cattle market site may have been used as an annual fair from as early as the eighth century.
In 1551 it became a ‘beast market’ and was protected by a Royal Charter written by Edward VI giving the town a weekly ‘market of beasts and swine’.
The Louth Enclosure Award extended the site in 1805 and it grew further in 1919 before a full redevelopment was carried out in 1988 by the owners, ELDC.