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New era dawns for Holsworthy livestock market

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 03, 2014

The new market at Holsworthy will welcome traders for the first sale today

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It covers more than 40 acres, boasts state of the art facilities for handling and selling livestock and – at £7m – represents a huge financial vote of confidence in the agricultural community of the Westcountry.

Today, after more than a century in the town centre, Holsworthy market will be trading at a new purpose-built agri-business centre on the edge of the town.

The old town centre site has been sold to supermarket giant Tesco who plan to put up a store – a rival to the upmarket Waitrose and the Co-op which already trade in the town – and build new homes.

All of the money from the sale of the site, has been invested in the new market. Including a grant from the Regional Development Fund totalling around £400,000 and close on £1m from Devon County Council a total of £7m has been put into the venture.

It is, by some measure, the single biggest project of its kind in the rural Westcountry for a number of years.

James Morrish, of Kivells, is full of admiration for the council – where he was once leader – for making such a commitment at a time when many local authorities are re-trenching and sticking only to the things that they are legally bound to do.

“This is massive for little old Torridge,” he said.

“All credit to them for sticking to their plans. Virtually everyone is onside.” He said even the majority of town centre traders, who benefit from the potential customers that market day brings to Holsworthy, had come to accept the change.

And to help ensure farmers and their wives can still get easily into town a free Hoppa Bus will run the two miles from the new market to the town centre on market day.

Kivells has been at the centre of the agricultural community in the area since 1885. Mr Morrish admitted that when the plans for the new market, on a green field site, were first submitted they were ready for dissent. “We were expecting heaps of objections. In the end the only two objections were from Waitrose and the Co-op,” he said.

“From our point of view this market will give us a wonderful opportunity, not only for livestock sales but for all the other things that go with it, on a vastly improved site.

“We consulted with farmers and they came up with one or two ideas and so we worked with them. Animal welfare needs will be high on the agenda at the new market, with large facilities so that cattle and sheep coming from a way away can be brought in overnight. We’ve been at our existing site for 106 years. The truth of the matter is we are probably not going to be doing this for at least another century and we wanted to get it absolutely right.”

As a result of that attention to detail changes were made to the original plans, effectively turning the building around so that it faced away from prevailing winds, even though that meant significant extra work for contractors Morgan Sindall.

“It’s been a long, long process,” said Mr Morrish. “We started talking about this in 1995.” The site was low-grade farmland that had been set aside, initially, to become a pet cemetery. “It wasn’t good land and had been left fallow,” said Mr Morrish.

But with its modern office accommodation, new purpose-built trading centres, replacing the wooden sheds at the current market, upgraded restaurant, and state-of-the-art pens with easy access for lorries and trailers, it is certainly going to change the lives of those for whom market day is a big part of their week.

What it also guarantees, Mr Morrish hopes, is that the vital pastoral role a market plays, bringing together farmers, who often live isolated lives, will continue. Today’s buyers and sellers who come down off the hills and up the farm tracks every Wednesday may be generations apart from the old boys in their hats and beards tending horned cattle in the Holsworthy street scene that hangs on Kivell’s wall.

In essence, however, they want the same thing – somewhere practical to meet and do business. Mr Morrish said: “Torridge has agriculture as its biggest economic driver. To think of Holsworthy market disappearing is unimaginable.” As the current market crumbled away, that was once a distinct possibility. It isn’t any more.

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  • rolandsmith  |  September 03 2014, 1:39PM

    Congratulations to Holsworthy on creating this great step forward which should not only be a benefit to the farming community but also to the town of Holsworthy and the whole district. I sincerely wish the market every success for many years to come. Far better this than the current craze for energy subsidy farming - the building of monstrous wind turbines blighting all of us and the sacrilege of taking hundreds upon hundreds of acres of good agricultural land out of food production by covering them with solar panels.

  • PAWB46  |  September 03 2014, 11:43AM

    All that roof space waiting for solar panels. But no, farmers prefer to put solar panels on good farmland. Why does Torridge allow solar farms to be built on greenfield land and yet doesn't insist on solar panels being put on all these roofs? There is a serious disconnect in the minds of Torridge planners and councillors.

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