Farmers gave a thumbs-up to a new multi-million pound livestock building at Melton Cattle Market as they got their first use of it today (Tuesday).
Some said it was the best market facility they had seen anywhere in the country as a new era dawned on the town’s historic market.
Delapidated cattle sheds have been replaced by the impressive new structure, which has an acre of floor space and can accommodate up to 1,000 animals.
The £5.5 million project is aimed at revitalising the market and ensuring its continued prosperity for the next two decades.
Great Dalby farmer David Johnson was excited to see the new building in action on Tuesday.
The 74-year-old, who has cattle and sheep at Lea Farm, said: “I’ve been working here at the market for 40 years and this new building is very impressive.
“There are one or two little issues but I am sure they will ironed out.
“It’s a lot safer than the old sheds. I was knocked over by a beast last year and flown to hospital but that wouldn’t happen here now because the pens and gates are much more secure and safer.”
Farmer Geoff Wade has been attending Melton market for an astonishing 70 years and he believes the changes were needed.
“In this area we are rather devoid of markets - we’ve got this one and Newark and the next one is quite a distance away,” said Mr Wade (79), who has arable land and cattle at Abbey Farm in Sedgebrook, near Bottesford.
“Melton is a farming-based town and the market needs to keep moving forward.
“The only issue I have is that you need two hands to move the new gates in the pens - the gates in the old sheds could be moved with one hand which is good when you have a stick or something else in the other.”
As he waited for the first cattle auction in the new building, Steve Jeal, Melton National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Mutual senior group secretary, said: “This is a great facility.
“It has cemented Melton’s position as the premier livestock market in the region.
“This is not just good for the agriculture industry, it is very good for the town as well.
“People had been talking about moving the market out of the town but most of them that have done that have not worked out.
“I remember the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001 when the market was closed for almost a year and Melton was like a ghost town as a result.”
The market’s CEO, Hugh Brown, said it had grown despite the disruption caused by the construction of the new building and he was excited about its future.
“Compared to the building we had before, this new one is light years ahead,” he said.
“We have had many people saying this is the best they’ve seen anywhere in the country.
“I’m sure we will attract more people from further afield as a result of this development.
“There will have been some farmers who would not have brought their prize animals to a delapidated old building but now we have a place which is perfect for them to show them off.
“There have been a few niggles from some people today but the feedback has been generally very good.”
Melton Council leader, Councillor Joe Orson, conducted the first auction in the new livestock building, selling off a 492kg beast for £268.
He then handed over to market manager and auctioneer Tim Webster to take bids for the other animals up for sale.
Before starting he told a packed auction ring, which is more elevated, secure and technologically-connected than the old one: “I am very proud to work in this building and hopefully it will do the town proud.”
Melton Council has invested £2million into the new building and the project received £3.5 million Local Growth Fund grant funding with support from the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).
Demolition of the old cattle shed building is due to begin tomorrow.
Preparations have already begun for phase two of the market’s redevelopment with a food and drink hub mooted to embrace Melton’s heritage products.