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ELDC Recommends The Sale Of The Cattle Market

June 3rd 2014

Tedder Hall

Tedder Hall

ELDC's executive board met on the morning of Tuesday, 3rd June to discuss the future of Louth's livestock market. The 27-minute meeting was chaired by Councillor Doreen Stephenson and did not include a public forum.

Councillor John Upsall, ELDC's portfolio holder for finance, commented that "the Louth livestock market is significantly underused." He revealed that the council had received 15 bids for the site from interested parties.

Councillor Adam Grist paid tribute to the contribution of the local community to this debate. "There is an awful long way to go," he said. "Today is just one decision. I am broadly comfortable with the recommendation this morning." However, he suggested an amendment: "I would like to see ELDC ensure there is a viable replacement facility."

Secrecy

Councillor Terry Knowles raised a concern about the amount and availability of information. "Councillors will be expected to assimilate a lot of information," he said. "This is a decision that will affect a lot of people in Louth. There are a lot of councillors who are not in the loop."

Councillor Knowles also raised concerns about the availability of pink papers, which are confidential council documents. Councillor Fiona Martin, who also sits on the livestock market scrutiny panel, echoed his concerns.

Councillor Stephenson assured Councillor Knowles that "all councillors will have access" to the relevant documents. "We're not making a decision today," she said.

Councillor Sandra Harrison suggested an addition to Councillor Grist's amendment, that the new livestock market "will be available before the existing livestock market is closed."

However, Councillor Harrison's addition was not added to the amended wording. The council executive voted in favour of recommending to the full council that it accepts an offer for the livestock market, and that it should be sold for redevelopment.

It's not a final decision. That will be made on July 23rd by the full council. However, there was very little debate about this issue, so as an observer I felt I was witnessing a done deal.

Supermarkets

What this move means is that Louth is much closer to having a supermarket on the cattle market site. There is no firm information about which one, because these details are commercially sensitive.

What's likely is that we'll see a large, bland supermarket selling many of the same brands available in other national supermarket chains. The space available at the cattle market is not quite enough to build a significantly larger supermarket than already exists in town. It might provide about 4000 square feet of retail space, or 5000 if the number of parking spaces were significantly cut back. But no matter which, there isn't space for any kind of hypermarket that people will travel from miles around to visit.

What a supermarket on the cattle market site might deliver is more minimum wage jobs to replace those in local retail. Its profits may also be sent to its shareholders, rather than being earned and spent within the local community.

There is an environmental argument in favour of keeping people shopping in Louth, rather than having to go to Grimsby or elsewhere. If it means fewer car journeys, that would be a good thing. However, I don't believe that that would be the end result. Why not? Because the overall amount of stock in Louth would remain consistent with what people who shop here are prepared to buy, and supermarkets are less likely to stock a wide variety of specialist goods.

I visited the recently-opened Tesco Extra in Lincoln a week or so ago, with its vastly increased floor space. I found its selection of herbs and spices to be less impressive than the choice at Stevensons in Eastgate. Meanwhile, it had a whole aisle devoted to ready meals. I guess it's all about the convenience.


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