Birmingham's wholesale markets are on course to move from Digbeth to a site close to the motorway ring – paving the way for a #200 million city centre redevelopment scheme.

City Council leaders are determined to press ahead with the relocation of the 21-acre market complex, which has been on its present site since 1974 and is the largest of its kind in the UK.

The intention is to move the horticultural, fish, poultry and meat markets to a site more easily accessible for the hundreds of retailers and restaurateurs from across the Midlands and mid-Wales who travel to Digbeth to buy produce first thing every morning.

The decision would open up a valuable redevelopment site, linking Digbeth, Eastside and the city centre.

Offers from developers for a similar mixed-use site off Great Charles Street hit #10 million an acre, potentially valuing the markets at #210 million.

Ken Hardeman, Birmingham cabinet member for regeneration, refused to comment on speculation that the markets would be re-housed at the former IMI factory site at Witton, close to Junction 6 of the M6.

Another possibility under consideration would involve moving the markets to part of the land occupied by the former MG Rover complex at Longbridge.

The idea is floated in an action plan for Longbridge published by the council this week.

Coun Hardeman (Con Brandwood) said it was "almost certain" that the markets will be given a new home.

He added: "We have established there is a case to be made for moving the markets. We shall be looking at relocation, that is almost certain.

"You can say with confidence that the markets will move out of the city centre."

Discussions are taking place between the council and market wholesalers about relocation.

Coun Hardeman said a site close to one of the motorways surrounding Birmingham would be better for customers visiting the wholesale markets, many of whom had to travel a long way and did not want to negotiate congested roads through the city centre.

He added: "The whole purpose of the markets is that you go in and collect your goods and get back to your business as quickly as possible. That is not so easy in the middle of the city centre.

"We are talking to the wholesalers and we are absolutely determined to proceed with them on board.

"The site where the markets are at the moment is a prime retail development site. The redevelopment of New Street Station and Eastside means more than ever that this land is going to provide additional opportunities."

A report to the council cabinet last year said that many of the wholesalers based at the Digbeth markets wanted to expand, but this would not be possible without identifying a larger site. Most of the existing leases expire in 2009.

The markets directly support 1,300 jobs and 98 per cent of the available space is occupied.

There are 235 trading units operating 365 days a year.

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