A new supermarket and car park is planned on the site of a 200-year-old livestock market in Cowbridge.
The Cowbridge livestock market was recently shut down and demolished by the Vale of Glamorgan council.
The council said many people travel out of Cowbridge to shop for groceries, so a car park and a supermarket would help the town’s economy.
However local farmers are still waiting for a replacement livestock market — promised by the Vale council years ago — but which hasn’t yet appeared.
The Vale cabinet voted on Monday, January 8, to sell the land at the Butts, where the former livestock market used to be.
Deputy council leader Lis Burnett said: “People travel outside of Cowbridge down to Bridgend or to Culverhouse Cross to do large food shops. We want to retain that spend in the town centre.
“[There is] ongoing work with the associated ‘agri-hub’ concept to serve the farming industry in the Vale of Glamorgan. Discussions continue with farming stakeholders and other interesting parties in how we can develop and establish an ‘agri-hub’.”
The land is owned by the council and will be marketed to developers as a potential site for “food retail use”, including a public car park.
But locals in the town are angry about how the Vale council closed the livestock market without replacing it. The closure means farmers must travel as far as Brecon or Carmarthen to sell sheep — with any profits eaten up by the expensive petrol costs of travelling so far.
Russell Spencer-Downe, deputy mayor of Cowbridge, said: “There’s a lot of anger in the town. We have been a market town for over 750 years.”
He pointed to a study carried out in 2018 by consultants commissioned by the Vale council, looking at replacing and upgrading the existing livestock market.
The report by Per Consulting said: “Importantly, any new facility needs to be developed before the existing market closes, or risk losing the relationship with farmers who will be forced to find new outlets for their stock.
“If no livestock market was to be provided locally, producers would incur additional costs and face longer journey times in transporting animals and increased time away from the farm, a particular issue for some small producers who also maintain other part-time work as well.
“Furthermore, as farmers disperse across a potential range of alternative locations, the local social networks, potential for informal support and familiarity with each other will undoubtedly be eroded leading to further isolation and wider social challenges within the rural and farming community.”
But the market shut down last summer and was demolished in the autumn.
Deputy mayor Spencer-Downe said: “They ignored the study. The closure has been terrible for the people who used it. The council eroded the market slowly over the last 15 years, taking their livelihood away from them.
“People would like to see a cheaper supermarket here, but not on that site. But it’s not about that: it’s about how it’s been done, and the principle of it. There’s a lot of very upset people in Cowbridge. It’s heartbreaking because they don’t listen to us.
“It affects the town because it’s our identity. [A market town] is what we are; what we have been for 750 years. The Vale council promised a new market just outside the town, but where has that gone?”
Nicola Thomas is a local farmer and says she has “heard nothing” about the proposed ‘agri-hub’ supposed to replace the livestock market.
She said: “The market has been there all my life and long before it. There used to be pigs and cattle, but they gradually whittled it down to just sheep. They let it die.
“They’re stopping everything that brings character and attractions about Cowbridge. They want to turn us into a Cardiff city suburb. Cowbridge is going to lose its rural character. Everything is getting urbanised. The town is going to completely change.”
Ms Thomas has 40 sheep which she keeps to follow on behind her cattle. She takes only about six lambs to market at a time — but can’t justify the cost of driving to markets in Brecon, Raglan or Carmarthen, now that the Cowbridge market has closed.
She added: “They’re taking my livelihood away. I’m very angry about it. The market was the centre of Cowbridge, it was the community. It would draw tremendous people from all over the UK who would come here. Now all they want to do is sell the land to a supermarket.”
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk