Farmer: 'I'm being forced out of market'

BINTREE farmer Peter Howell, the boss of Norwich's livestock market, claims he is being forced out by the site's city council landlords.Mr Howell said he had received notice to quit the Hall Road site by May 7 in a row over an unpaid water bill.

BINTREE farmer Peter Howell, the boss of Norwich's livestock market, claims he is being forced out by the site's city council landlords.

Mr Howell said he had received notice to quit the Hall Road site by May 7 in a row over an unpaid water bill.

Mr Howell, company secretary of Norwich Livestock Market, has run the market since it reopened in 2002 after being shut down during the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak.

The market holds fortnightly sales of cattle and sheep. The last was held on Easter Saturday, at which 350 cattle and about 300 sheep were sold, with proceeds totalling nearly �200,000. It was attended by more than 250 people.

But Mr Howell said he had been in dispute with Norwich City Council since January.

'The council have now issued me with a legal notice to take the site back, the reason being I won't pay an outstanding water bill of getting on for �40,000 because the majority of the water has been wasted. We have had a burst main for two-and- a-half-years,' he said.

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'Norwich City Council have refused to spend any money on repairs although it's clearly their legal responsibility. I'm only responsible for the minor day-to-day repairs - all the major structural repairs are the responsibility of Norwich City Council.'

If the market were to close, the nearest alternatives for Norfolk farmers would be at Colchester or Newark.

The Royal Norfolk Showground has previously been mooted as an alternative site, but John Purling, chief executive of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, said that would not be possible.

Amy Lyall, a spokesman for Norwich City Council, said: 'We have been in discussions with Mr Howell for quite some time about how we can make a satisfactory arrangement with him.

'We have now given him a period of time to address breaches of covenant on the part of the licensee. If these are not addressed, we have the option of forfeiting the site. However, we would be disappointed if these issues cannot be resolved.

'If it emerges that no resolution is possible, we would look at ways that we could actively ensure the livestock market continues for the city.'