Midland livestock producers have been handed a lifeline after plans to close Rugby Market were unveiled.
The cattle market, which is one of the top 20 for livestock in the country, was established in 1876 and is due to close at Christmas because of Rugby Borough Council's decision to build residential and commercial properties the ten-acre site in the centre of Rugby, next to the train station.
Producers and buyers have combined to form the Rugby Farmers' Mart and 250 investors have put together a fund to establish a new market operation. Now the group has been offered a 99-year lease at the Royal Showground in Stoneleigh by the Royal Agricultural Society of England (Rase) for a market to be established in the existing sheep buildings.
These buildings are normally only used for livestock purposes during the Royal Show. If the scheme is approved, #600,000 will be spent on the conversion of the buildings to provide a concrete floor pen area and a sale ring.
Richard Heckford, chairman of Rugby National Farmers’ Union and chairman of the Rugby Farmers' Mart Steering Committee, said: "This Farmers’ Mart initiative in the formation of a farmer co-operative reflects what has happened for many years in the north and south-western areas of the country where livestock auctions are owned and run by farmers’ co-operatives.
"This is a one-off opportunity for Midlands farmers to own their own business and to control a very important part of the meat supply chain.
"Producers desperately need to maintain a transparent method of price fixing and to keep out of the grips of the supermarkets who now dominate the red meat trade..
"It is a real pity that Rugby Borough Council no longer feel an obligation to provide a cattle market but if we farmers do not do something about it there will be no market for the future which is important for both our trade and for a meeting place for people of a common interest.
"We urgently need additional investors. We are hoping this additional investment will come from those parts of Warwickshire and adjoining counties who will find Stoneleigh easily accessible.
"It is time for farmers to take matters into their own hands".
A Rase spokesman said: "We think there should be a livestock market and we think it is a great opportunity to access the facilities on offer here. The time scale is within the next three months."
A spokesman for Rugby Borough Council confirmed the closure of the market and said the trend for similar markets in the country was changing. He said the location of the market would be redeveloped.
"There is a development frame which involves a range of residential developments, commercial developments and improved arrangements relating to the station, if that can actually be achieved," he said.