PRESSURE is mounting on the Vale of Glamorgan council to drop controversial plans to build a supermarket in Cowbridge.
The supermarket and car park are planned on the site of a 200-year old livestock market, which was recently demolished.
The Vale council closed and demolished the livestock market last year. This left local farmers struggling to make any money from selling animals, due to the long distance they now have to travel to the nearest livestock markets in Brecon, Carmarthen, or Monmouthshire.
Now local politicians and campaigners are calling on the Vale council to drop the plans, consult with the local community, and open up a replacement livestock market. The council has been promising for years to replace the market, but a replacement “is still in discussion”.
Andrew RT Davies, MS for South Wales Central and leader of the Welsh Conservatives, slammed the plans as “ludicrous”, calling on the Vale council to rule out plans to build a supermarket on the site.
“The livestock market was a key part of the heritage of Cowbridge as a traditional market town. The Labour-run council went ahead with demolition without a plan, and now they’re left trying to find a new use for the site.
“The last thing local people and businesses want to see is another supermarket, and anyone who knows anything about rural communities would know this. Unfortunately, the council is clearly lacking in this regard.”
Jane Hutt, Labour MS for the Vale of Glamorgan, said she would raise concerns about the proposals to the Vale council, and described the recently demolished livestock market as a “key feature” of Cowbridge.
“I have supported a number of community enterprises and partnership proposals to secure the long-term future of the market for all those who have an interest. This includes farming, chamber of trade and businesses which are the heartbeat of the town.
“Proposals for a community hub, market space and car parking for businesses and visitors have been supported locally. Consultation about the latest plans is vital and I’m grateful for the feedback from the chamber of trade and the local community who raised strong objections.
“I will be meeting with the Vale of Glamorgan council to raise the concerns of my constituents to find a viable and sustainable way forward that will benefit Cowbridge.”
Alun Cairns, Tory MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, said residents were “shocked and angered” by the proposals, and called on the Vale council to stop the plans and hold a “proper consultation”.
“I join local residents in their shock and anger at the Vale council’s plan to build a supermarket on the Cowbridge cattle market site, which they are trying to push through without consultation.
“There is an opportunity to deliver something on this site which complements the town, meets the needs of residents and local businesses while remaining sympathetic to the area. The council must stop their plans and engage in full and proper consultation with our community.”
After the plans were revealed, a campaign group quickly formed to urge the Vale council to consult the community in Cowbridge on what would be best for the town. The ‘No to a Supermarket’ campaign warned the plans could damage local businesses.
A spokesman for the campaign said:
“The announcement was released with shock from business owners who had no prior warning, especially those in the Cowbridge chamber of trade who was particularly aggrieved at the decision.
“Local business owners simply want parking on the cattle market in order to support the high street. They believe another supermarket will damage their business, which has already been massively impacted by the pandemic and restrictions.
“We can’t seem to understand the council’s perspective, especially when they know the damage a supermarket will do to the already battered high street, which Cowbridge is famous for.”
Council leader Neil Moore responded to the concerns in a letter to Mr Cairns, where he said a new supermarket could create jobs; would reduce people travelling outside of Cowbridge to shop for groceries, and a public consultation will be held.
Cllr Moore said:
“There is clearly an unprecedented need to support and create jobs and where possible strengthen the retail offer of our town centres, and the current proposals do just that.
“It would also be environmentally sustainable, reducing the need for residents of Cowbridge and the surrounding villages to travel further to Bridgend or Cardiff for their weekly food shopping.
“Community consultation will obviously be undertaken as part of the planning application process by the preferred developer in due course. A prospective developer [will need to] prove there was enough capacity in Cowbridge to warrant such use without harming the town centre.
“This is a great opportunity to boost Cowbridge’s economy, enhance the local environment and deliver a major investment serving the needs of the wider community.”
The Vale council has commissioned consultants PER Consulting to look at replacing the livestock market. A spokesperson said the sheep market was “not sustainable” and the “time had come” to regenerate the land. Discussions on a replacement are ongoing.
The council spokesperson said:
“The sheep market was originally due to close at the end of March 2020 following the end of the market operator’s lease, however, due to the ongoing pandemic, the operators were granted a monthly extension of the lease until September. Demolition then began on site.
“It was clear to the council that the sheep market was not sustainable, as identified in the original PER report. The council felt that the time had come to secure the regeneration of this important location, which would include additional parking for the town centre and significant improvements to the site surrounding the historic town wall known as the Butts.
“The council hopes that, regardless of the decision to close the market, stakeholders still see a need for a fit-for-purpose facility in the future and is committed to working with partners to take this forward to the next stage.”