CIRENCESTER LIVESTOCK market is at the centre of a row following a decision by Cotswold District Council planners that could leave the area without a livestock mart for up to six months from the end of July.

Work is due to start on the town‘s new market, off the A419 at Driffield, in less than two months and the owners say it is scheduled to become operational by the beginning of 2005.

But farmers are angry that the existing town market off the Tetbury Road will be closed after July 31 – so Cotswold District Council can build a new leisure centre there.

Lord Apsley, director of Cirencester Park Farms and former NFU county chairman, said the delay could damage the mart‘s trade.

“People have to sell their beasts and I‘m afraid they will go elsewhere. A few months ago, I wrote to the council to ask them to extend the lease, but I‘ve heard nothing.”

The council says it has already given the market a lengthy stay of execution and will incur financial penalties if it delays its own project.

The market, which sells about 350 cattle a week, was originally scheduled to move last year, but the council delayed the leisure centre scheme as part of a cost-cutting exercise.