AN auction mart has unveiled plans to diversify and become a tourist attraction and centre of learning.

Hawes auction mart has submitted a planning application for a £5m redevelopment of its site in the town's Burtersett Road.

Plans for the scheme, which would include a caf, training theatre, sales and exhibition areas and sports facilities, have been submitted to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

Maurice Hall, general manager of the auction mart, said the facilities would be housed in a new multi-purpose building, replacing the mart office and farmland to the east of the site.

He said: "The plan is to diversify in these times of difficulty for the agricultural sector.

"We're trying to provide other services to the rural population of the upper dales.

"At the same time we will not take our eye off what we are here to do - serve the local farming community."

If this first application is approved, as national park officers will recommend at a meeting on Tuesday, plans will be submitted for an 'interpretation centre'.

Mr Hall said: "I see this working in partnership with the Dales Countryside Museum and the Wensleydale Creamery visitor centre.

"Together we would provide an overall picture for visitors of what the countryside is all about."

Auction mart bosses are currently talking to Yorkshire Forward, the region development agency, about funding.

The redevelopment was first proposed after the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak, which crippled businesses in the dales.