Cattle market wins court battle

A north-east cattle market has won a court battle against council officers who wanted to curtail overnight animal movements.

Darlington Farmers Auction Market had gone to court after environmental health officers, working for Darlington Borough Council, had issued a noise abatement order against the council.

The order stated that there must be no animal movements between 9pm and 7am.

Council officers had begun an investigation after residents complained that the early morning movement of cattle was making sleep impossible. But the market owners said that to delay the early morning cattle movement would mean the cattle would miss their slot at the abattoirs, seriously threatening the business of the market.

At a hearing before local magistrates, the appeal was upheld on the grounds that the council investigation had not been thorough enough, as noise abatement officers had only visited the market in the early morning once. The market company was awarded costs of £16,000.

After the case, the market company's managing director Stephen Aitken told local media in a statement: "This is a tremendous relief. Ever since the council served the notice in January, it has been like a sword hanging over our heads. It could have put us out of business.

"It all seems so unnecessary. The market has been on its present site in Darlington for 130 years and we have always got on with people living nearby.

"What the council told us to do was entirely unreasonable and it's still not clear to us what lay behind the move. There is inevitably a degree of noise when we unload and load cattle. But we do everything we can to mitigate that."

However, a spokeswoman for the local council countered by saying: "We felt we had carried out a thorough investigation. We are disappointed with the outcome and will now consider our options."