Two West Country markets to merge

Two West Country markets are to merge to form one of the biggest livestock centres in Britain in a new multi-million pound development beside the M5 motorway.

Taunton Market - the largest store cattle market in the south of England - and Highbridge Market - the biggest fatstock market in the South West - will move to a new Rural Business Centre being built on a 55 acre site at junction 24 of the M5 just outside Bridgwater in Somerset.

Three markets a week, possibly more, will attract farmers from Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, South Wales, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, and buyers from all over the country.

Robert Venner, a partner with market operators Greenslade Taylor Hunt described the new venture as the biggest-ever agricultural development undertaken in the West Country. Several thousand animals a week could pass through the new market at peak times. A number of seasonal sales are planned too.

The new Centre, which is due for completion later this year, has been described as a one-stop-shop for all things agricultural with offices and shops forming part of the complex. A large concourse will be capable of holding farmers markets and associated events seven days a week. Some estimates have put the cost of the new Centre at £100 million.

A new £30 million milk processing plant is being built opposite the site.

It is claimed the new Centre could eventually generate as many as 1,000 jobs for the local economy.