Page last updated at 17:29 GMT, Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Cattle market inquiry under way

Hailsham cattle market
Hailsham cattle market has been in the town for 750 years

A public inquiry is under way into whether a supermarket can be built on the site of an historic cattle market.

Wealden District Council has refused planning permission for Aldi to build on the site of the 752-year-old Hailsham market in East Sussex.

Farmers, who say the loss of the market would be a "hammer-blow" for livestock farming in the area, are speaking at the six-day inquiry.

Neither Aldi nor Wealden council wanted to comment.

Planning permission for the supermarket was refused in 2007 because of the historical and economic significance of the market.

Purchase land

An alternative 10-acre site for the market has been identified next to the Diplocks roundabout on the A22.

Hailsham Market Action Group (HMAG) has a two-year option to purchase the land at a fixed price.

But the National Farmers' Union (NFU) said the Market Street site should not be redeveloped until a replacement market was up and running.

"Generations of farmers have grazed animals within the landscapes of the High and Low Weald, the Pevensey Levels and on the South Downs," said NFU spokesman James Mulleneux.

"These landscapes are a product of low-input farming and Hailsham market is part and parcel of this traditional industry, with its particular trading patterns.

"Its loss would jeopardise the very character of East Sussex and the surrounding counties."

The public inquiry is being held at the Boship Farm Hotel, Lower Dicker.

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