Finding a new home for Malton’s agricultural heart

Farmers watching the Prime Cattle sale at Malton Livestock Market.
Farmers watching the Prime Cattle sale at Malton Livestock Market.
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LIVESTOCK MARKET days in one of North Yorkshire’s most traditional market towns are numbered. Historic, colourful and bustling as they may be the final sales of cattle and sheep could be held in Malton within the next year.

Heated exchanges, divided opinion and united forces have all played their part in what has sometimes appeared to be its own soap opera in the past decade but the saga now seems set to be resolved to bring about a new purpose-built livestock market near Eden Camp just out of town and allow those with plans to develop the existing space where animals have been traded.

Movement of livestock markets to out-of-town sites is nothing new as Skipton, Thirsk and York will testify but Malton has arguably proved the most provocative move among cattle and sheep men and women, the town’s shopkeepers and local residents.

When a petition was launched in 2006 to stop the livestock market from closing, as its 50-year lease from the Fitzwilliam (Malton) Estate was due to end in April 2008, there was widespread support that it should stay and the market obtained a short-term lease.

While there are still some livestock market supporters and townspeople who will lament another slice of history being condemned to the history books it’s now simply a case of when rather than whether the move will happen.

Pat Foxton is chairman of the Malton & Ryedale Farmers Livestock Company that operates the market in collaboration with Malton Livestock Auctioneers, which is made up of two land agents and auctioneers’ businesses Cundalls and Boulton & Cooper Stephenson.

Pat farms at Silpho, near Scarborough and is a livestock haulier. I met him and four of his six fellow founder directors after a recent auction. Pat is now keen to see the move happen as swiftly as possible.

“There are still one or two who would like us to stay and who don’t see why we should move but they don’t understand the circle of events. The Fitzwilliam (Malton) Estate has planning permission to develop this site and once that all firms up and they have a taker for it they can close the site within three months and develop it. That could mean that Malton would no longer have a livestock market.

“We need to move to the new five-acre site given to us by the Fitzwilliam Trust Corporation, but we can only do that when we have built the new market.

“If this market is closed and the new one takes as much as a year to open our livestock farmers will understandably have to trade elsewhere and that could lead to the devil’s own job for the auctioneers in getting them to come back to us.

“We’re now at the stage where we have to agree costs of building and development with our agent. We don’t want to build something that’s too expensive, can’t be controlled and doesn’t have a chance of succeeding. As a board of directors we are representing the farming community and we have to look very closely at every cost. It also has to be fair to the two existing firms of auctioneers that will get the franchise to run the market as our auctioneers.

“We don’t want too heavy an expenditure that makes it difficult for them to recoup funds on behalf of investors, whom are largely to be the farmer supporters themselves.”

John Storey who farms at Hunmanby and is another founder director of the new company believes Malton livestock market will continue to have a vital role to play in the success of the town.

“Malton hosts some of the largest breeding sheep sales in the country for early breeding sheep and is well supported by all livestock farmers and breeders who use facilities in the town. When I come here I buy my agricultural supplies and conduct my banking in town and that will still be my intention even when we’re a short drive away.”

Agricultural supplier and market company director Winston Kobylka feels that the entrenched positions of the then opposing sides of nearly a decade ago are in the past.

“The idea is that the livestock market will be an anchor development for the new out-of-town site that will see a number of businesses operating on the 35 acres of industrial land granted in total, providing Malton with far greater employment opportunities. To me it’s a major step forward and I see us all now working together to get this thing done.”

Michael Douglas is vice-chairman of the Malton & Ryedale Farmers Livestock Company and farms at Wray House Farm, Low Marishes. He’s been coming to Malton livestock market all his life.

“It’s a nightmare to work in at present. We have just two loading docks each for cattle and sheep and that’s certainly not enough. Traffic on a market day is another problem and the town would work a lot better without the market here.”

The proposed move has been a long time coming but Pat Foxton is looking forward to the next stage: “Dependent on the final agreements and then the vagaries of the weather, site work could begin in September/October.

“We’ve been told that once we’re under way the new livestock market could be completed within six to nine months. We will be announcing details of how farmers can invest in the new market shortly.”