Farmers hopeful for new abattoir

Plans to re-open an abattoir in south Shropshire have been given a significant boost.

A feasibility study for the facility in Bishops Castle has identified real potential for the business to fulfil demand for high quality locally sourced meat, campaigners claimed.

Conducted in recent months by independent consultants with funding from Advantage West Midlands, the wide-ranging study draws positive conclusions on the facilities and its location, and forecasts a sustainable future with the right management strategy.

The report gives renewed impetus to local farmers and other businesses intent on securing the necessary funding to re-open the business, which closed last autumn. As Long Mynd livestock producer Malcolm Corfield explains, there is optimism that the abattoir can be re-opened and a real belief that this would offer significant benefits to the region as a whole.

"The abattoir at Bishops Castle is an ideal facility to deliver traceable, high quality beef, lamb and pork that has been reared in Shropshire and Powys and would meet the growing demand for local produce," he explained.

"The buildings and equipment remain in good condition, and the business sits at the heart of one of the country's best livestock producing regions.

"With a focus on developing high quality identifiable brands, the abattoir has the potential to add value for livestock farmers, provide a vital service for local butchers and retailers, and supply outstanding local produce for everyone in the area. We do badly need an alternative option to dealing with the large multiples, and - like a great many farmers in the area - I relish the opportunity to deal locally and develop a new high value marketing option."

One significant funding option is already being explored, but further investment will be required in any event if the project is to proceed. The aim is to raise a proportion of the funding required from local investors, thereby offering any interested parties the opportunity to have a stake in the new business.

"This is an opportunity that is extremely unlikely to come along again, because if the abattoir closes permanently it is unlikely that another would ever be built," added Corfield. "I believe the future for locally sourced, fully traceable, high quality, high welfare and well-branded meat is very exciting and I'm proud to be a part of this project."

The proposed new venture would potentially be part of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty "Buy Sustainable" programme and would also aim to play a part in the development of Welsh brands to support farmers in Wales. Appointment of an experienced general manager would be one of the first objectives and this process is already in the early stages.

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