THE iconic square at Markethill faces major changes, with the cattle and sheep mart sold to local supermarket J.D. Hunter across the main street.
The mart - known as Markethill Livestock Sales - is moving to a greenfield site at Cladymilltown Road, half a mile away, and Hunter’s are taking over the livestock sales premises, which includes the former PSNI station.
The supermarket owners are planning a £1m upgrade, and the weekly auctions at the cattle mart will continue until the Hunter project is completed in the summer. It will spell the end of 60 years activities on the town centre site.
With Markethill thriving and business expanding, the town centre was becoming grid-locked on market day, so the best option was to move a short distance out of town, where there would be better parking facilities for the farming community which flock to the weekly sales.
Hampton Hewitt, director of Markethill Livestock Sales, said, “We first planned the move some five years ago, but held back when the PSNI station next door became available in 2011 - that would have given us more space. But the problems of access, traffic congestion, control zones and irate residents would have remained. We started negotiations with Hunter’s several months ago and the sale was agreed in December.
“The move will allow us to provide the farming community with a modern and more spacious mart. It is our priority to ensure that farmers in County Armagh and beyond have a suitable and vibrant facility in which they can market their livestock.”
The mart also plans to have a office in the town to accommodate the estate agency side of the business, and it is understood that significant grant for the move were received from the European Union and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD).
A statement from Hunter’s confirmed the deal - “The site is adjacent to our current business and is therefore an attractive addition. Plans for the site are at an early stage, and the development will enhance the area, both visually and commercially. The company has a history of continued investment in Markethill, and work on the £1m upgrade will start in March. This, and any future development, will provide jobs for local people in both the retail and construction sectors.”