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05 July 2012

Out With the Old, In With the New

With a few simple chimes of a bell, the curtain came down on Welshpool’s 145-year-old livestock market.


It had survived BSE, foot-and-mouth and rollercoaster prices but failed to cope with progress and the demands of EC pen-pushers.


Shedding a silent tear at Friday’s closure ceremony, when the sale day bell was rung for the last time, was John Jones, retired partner at Welshpool Livestock Sales.


Having joined the market in 1960 as a £2-a-week articled pupil, he helped orchestrate the purchase of the council-owned market in the early 1980s.


“It was a sad moment,” he reflected after a bilingual blessing ceremony at the old Smithfield site. “It’ been very good to us over the years.”


At its peak the mart was trading 22,000 sheep and 600 cattle-a-week. But the site needed investment and the introduction of sheep electronic tagging regulations, allied to tighter biosecurity demands, brought matters to a head.


The opportunity to move to a new site came amid multi-million-pound plans to reshape Welshpool’s retail facilities by Oswestry-based J Ross Developments.


Work on the new £13m market, on a 16-acre site a mile north of its former home at Buttington Cross, was completed on time by Pickstock Construction, building contractors.


On Friday industry leaders gathered for its official opening. The country’s largest market – and one of the largest in Europe – is now entirely roofed, with rows upon rows of aluminium pens filling the 149,000 sq ft facility.


Altogether the new market has 1,044 sheep and 200 cattle pens with extra penning for annual one-day sales.


Visitors were impressed. Chris Dodds, executive secretary of the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association, said: “I’ve been to many of Britain’s markets, and to most of the new ones, and this is among the best.”


Mr Dodds was asked to chime in the new market using the old sale day bell which had been swiftly relocated to its new home.


His involvement was appropriate, said John Jones: “He encouraged the investment in Welshpool at a time when few developers were willing to invest in new livestock markets.”


Christening the new market will be the British Charolais Cattle Society when it holds its autumn sale on Thursday. A record 107 bulls will come under the hammer in the heated sale ring.


The sale will set in motion a domino effect that will see the start of the town’s new gyratory system, a new supermarket built on the old smithfield, a new open-air market and various refurbishment projects.


Spencer Cooper, a director at J Ross Developments, said the new market would revitalise Welshpool and safeguard the livestock sector in Mid Wales.


Reported Highest Value Project

Jefferson Sheard Architects has published its annual 16/17 report which reflects on the past 12 months progression in sectors such as student accommodation and the public sector, as well as highlighting key projects of significance.


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