Louth town councillors from across the political divide have reacted angrily to the three options set out for the future of the cattle market - which includes the possibility of selling the current site and not providing a replacement.
As reported last week, East Lindsey District Council (ELDC) is currently holding a nine-week consultation on the future of the site, which is Lincolnshire’s only surviving cattle market. The three options include:
It’s like a planning application - you apply for it, but you might not get it. So it could be £200,000 down the drain!Councillor George Horton
• Selling the current site to ELDC’s ‘selected bidder’, the ADV Partnership, who would provide a retail development on the site with a new livestock facility built on the Fairfield Industrial Estate at the cost of £5 million.
• Suspend the cattle market and promote a Private Act of Parliament - at a cost of up to £200,000 - to discontinue the operation of a livestock market in Louth. If successful, this would allow it to be sold for redevelopment without a replacement facility being built.
• Withdraw from the agreed sale with the ADV Partnership and undertake repairs on the current site, costing up to £700,000.
Following the announcement of these three options, ELDC launched the consultation, which will end on September 6.
ELDC Leader, Coun Craig Leyland, said: “Whilst the council has previously agreed to provide a replacement livestock market facility in Louth, the council’s most recent legal advice is that there is the option to challenge the Charters and request they be amended by seeking a Private Act of Parliament.
“As there are a range of options on the table to consider, the Executive Board has agreed that the council should seek the views of local people before reaching a conclusion on the way forward.
“This is an important decision for the council and involves large sums of money and we need to ensure in reaching a conclusion we understand the views of the whole community.”
However, at a meeting of Louth Town Council on July 11, councillors were unanimous in their condemnation of the way the situation had been handled.
Coun Jason Garrett said: “[ELDC] have given limited amounts of information, especially regarding figures that just don’t stack up.
“They’re saying that they’d be spending £5 million on a new building,yet that building is only going to be worth £250,000 when it’s finished.
“Then they’re saying that they would be spending £700,000 to restore the current building.
“All the numbers just don’t add up for it being viable in any sense. So they should be looking to put an economic plan in place so that we do not lose our market, and it becomes a viable asset once again like it used to be.”
Coun Dan Turner said it would be ‘appalling’ for ELDC to use a Private Act of Parliament to ‘get what they want’.
Coun George Horton said: “Whether you wanted a supermarket there or not, people can not and will not support the ratepayer to pay £200,000 to try and get a Royal Charter removed [through a Private Act of Parliament].
“And it’s like a planning application - you apply for it, but you might not get it.
“So it could be £200,000 down the drain!”
Coun Horton suggested an alternative option: to ‘split the site up’ retaining the current cattle market and building starter homes or industrial units on the site perimeter.
Coun Jill Makinson-Sanders said she was ‘extremely concerned’ about the consultation and how much ‘weight’ will given to the views of the farmers who use the facility compared to residents across the district.
For comparison, Coun Makinson-Sanders said: “Has anybody ever asked us why we want to spend £355,000 every year on the SO Festival which lasts for nine days?
“Nobody has ever asked me whether I’d like the invest that money in Skegness, but we are now asking people in Skegness if they’d like a £5 million cattle market building in Louth.
Coun Andrew Leonard said: “The overriding point of all of this is the fact that ELDC have served notice on the auctioneers to quit in December.
“If you serve notice on anybody with any contract, they’re not going to stick around and wait.
“That market auctioneer will finish in December, and he is the only runner in this race to do that job. And when he’s gone, there is no reason you would need to build a new cattle market, because you don’t have a market auctioneer. That would be a gift in the hands of East Lindsey.”
Coun Leonard added that the future of the nearest other cattle market, in Newark, is currently in doubt, and that Louth’s facility could become more viable if Newark’s closes.
He added: “I dare put money on it that, within the next two years, Louth’s cattle market will be sold and you won’t have another one to replace it. It is a foregone conclusion.”
• Meanwhile, East Lindsey District Council has arranged a public meeting about the consultation on the cattle market. This will take place at Louth Town Hall on August 9 at 6.30pm.