FARMERS crowded Hailsham town centre on Wednesday morning to protest against the closure of the cattle market.

Dozens of placard-waving campaigners marched through the streets to Hailsham market's annual Fatstock show, where hundreds of protestors gathered.

Aldi supermarket has bought the market site and plans have been submitted for a superstore and 20 flats.

And market campaigners are predicting a terrible impact on the local economy and environment if the 752-year-old market closes.

The Chairman of Hailsham Market Action Group, Phil Hook, of Longleys Farm, Harebeating Lane, said, 'It would be devastating for the local rural community, not just Hailsham, the ripples would go out a long way.

'The market takes stock from the fringes of Kent, Surrey and Hampshire. If Hailsham was to close the nearest market would be Salisbury.

'I think a lot of smaller producers would pack up because it would be too costly transporting the animals.

'And there would be a huge impact on Hailsham town centre as well because it is a market town, but it is something that wouldn't be realised until after it happened.'

But Mr Hook is remaining confident that the market will remain open — campaigners have the support of MP Charles Hendry who spoke at the demonstration.

Backing is now weighing in from all sides. Both East Sussex County Council and Wealden District Council have supported motions to try to save the market.

And Mr Hook revealed that more than 100,000 had been pledged from campaigners to attempt a buy-out of the site.

He said, 'We're very positive. We're looking for a bit of match funding from people who have got funding available.

'We hope we can get a way forward to save the market.'

The campaigners are supported by the NFU.

The chairman for East Sussex, John Padfield, said if the market was to close, a 'vital cog' in the local industry would be lost.

The NFU will now be meeting the South East of England Development Agency, Sussex Enterprise and East and West Sussex County Councils on December 16 to discuss funding for a buy-out.