One of the last remaining cattle markets in Staffordshire is to be radically revamped to safeguard its future.
Leek Cattle Market, originally built in the 1960s, will be modernised in a scheme proposed by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council which will cost nearly £300,000.
Leek is home to one of only two livestock markets left in the county, and had a turnover of £3.3 million in 2004.
The BSE crisis and poor milk prices forcing many dairy farmers to quit the industry has left markets fighting for business.
Staffordshire, which once had nearly 60 markets, now has just two - at Leek and Uttoxeter.
Uttoxeter market is due to be relocated as part of plans to regenerate its original site in the town centre.
Bruce Daniel, director of Leek Auctions Ltd, said: "The face of farming has changed in the wake of foot-and-mouth and it was important that we reacted to the demands of the industry.
"We are going to make sure Leek has a modern and wellequipped facility to trade stock. The market's three island sites will be replaced by a central hall linked to three sale rings, all under one roof."
Work is expected to start in the autumn after Advantage West Midlands pledged £130,000 towards the scheme. Staffordshire Moorlands District Council has donated a further £137,000 in grants.
Leek stages weekly cattle and sheep livestock markets on Tuesdays, fortnightly sales of poultry and caged birds on Saturdays, monthly sales of agricultural machinery, and an open market for stall traders and car boot vendors on Sundays.
Marie Greer, director for Staffordshire at Advantage West Midlands, said: "The initiative at Leek Cattle Market heralds an exciting period of change for the better, supporting the local farming industry and bringing in more trade and visitors to help regenerate the town centre's economy."
John Fisher, Staffordshire Moorlands Council cabinet member for regeneration, said: "The county's only other cattle market at Uttoxeter is scheduled to close. Leek cattle market is the only other remaining such feature in