Carl Sargeant, Minister for Local Government and Communities
Members may wish to be aware that the provisions of the Abergavenny Improvement Acts of 1854 to 1871 oblige the holding of a livestock market within the boundaries of Abergavenny town. There is no stipulation as to the site where the market is held. There is currently an established livestock market in the town. However, neither the current market nor its location are cited in the Acts and the local authority would be in compliance with the law were they to hold a livestock market in some other location within the town.
I have a power in the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 to repeal Acts such as these where it appears to me that they are ‘spent, obsolete or unnecessary’. Monmouthshire County Council has asked me to do just that; and my officials are currently consulting users of the market on whether I should do so.
This would normally be an arcane, procedural issue. However it has been complicated by a local planning matter. Monmouthshire County Council has had long-standing plans to redevelop the site of the livestock market in Abergavenny, and to relocate the market to Raglan. Those proposals have attracted strong controversy in the town and the wider area, and several planning applications have been rejected. Nonetheless, the Council’s planning committee granted permission for the redevelopment in June of this year subject to certain conditions. This would involve the building of a supermarket and a new library for the town. There are separate proposals to build a new livestock market near Raglan. These are all issues for the County Council, not the Welsh Government.
It is vital to understand that the question before me has nothing to do with the proposals to close the current market, to construct a new market at Raglan, or to allow Morrisons to open a supermarket on the site. Those are matters for the Council; and it is for the Council to account for the decisions its planning committee makes. The Acts do not require the market to be held on the current site, nor do they prohibit redevelopment of that site. Repealing the Acts would not require the current market to close; and strictly speaking, retaining the Acts would not require the current market to remain open. Either way, the Council’s decision to grant planning permission will stand, and it is up to the Council and its developers to implement it.
Rather, I need to consider whether Monmouthshire County Council should remain subject to the requirements that the Acts appear to impose. So far as we know, no other local authority in Wales, and possibly beyond, is subject to such restrictions. All other local authorities can operate livestock markets under powers in the Food Act 1984. I am therefore conducting a consultation on a possible repeal of the acts.
That does not mean I want the current market site to close, or that I agree with the Council’s decision. It would just mean that Monmouthshire County Council would be in the same position as any other local authority. I reiterate, the location of the current market site is irrelevant to this decision.
Nonetheless, it is clear from correspondence I have already received that this remains a very controversial issue within the town and beyond. It would be wrong to ignore such feelings. I am therefore inviting all views and responses from anyone with an interest in this issue, not just market users, by the end of November. Further details on how to contribute will shortly be available on the Welsh Government website, and in the local press.
However, I must reiterate that I can place no weight on views which relate to the proposed redevelopment of the current site or its alleged impact on the town. Respondents should base their submissions on the arguments for or against the retention of the Act - not on the location or future of the current market, or on the wider development of the town. I have no doubt that views on the redevelopment of the site are sincerely and strongly held. But these are planning matters for the Council.
I will make a further statement to the Assembly in due course.