2000% rent rise threatens livestock market

03 February 1999

2000% rent rise threatens livestock market

By FWi staff

SURREY is on the brink of losing its last livestock market because Guildford town council wants to push up its site rent – by more than 2000%.

Operator South East Marts fears that the annual rent at the current six-acre site in Guildford could rocket from less than £3000/acre to more than £70,000/acre.

“No livestock market in the country can afford to pay industrial rents,” said managing director Chris Sykes.

If the rent increase is forced through, then the market will have to move – or close its doors – ending a 723-year tradition in the town.

However, the town council has already refused permission to relocate, although supporters of the mart hoping to force councillors to change their mind.

“Ill be attending to make a show of strength with farmers,” said William White, NFU south-east policy advisor.

If Guildford market disappeared, it would be another nail in the coffin for competition in the livestock sector, he added.

South East Marts has been hit by a drop in commissions in the face of lower cattle and sheep values.

The firms latest published accounts show an after-tax profit of only £32,000 on £36.5 million turnover in the year to 31 December, 1997.

Disappearance of the auction would deal another blow to a system already reeling from a spate of recent closures, including that of Bury St Edmunds in December.

John Martin, secretary of the Livestock Auctioneers Association, said the disappearance of livestock markets reflected the crisis in farming.

Commission levels at some markets fell 25% to 30% last year, he said.

“It is inevitable there will be casualties.”

But the opening of new sites – such as Ashford, Bakewell and Northampton – may highlight a long-term future for the sector, he added.

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