Town divided over new market

Blackburn with Darwen Council is pressing ahead with plans for a new £8m indoor Continental-style market despite protests from existing stallholders.

The market, due to open in spring 2011, will be based in the ground floor of Capital & Regional's newly extended £66m Mall shopping centre. The council's brief for the construction contract, worth £6.5m, was issued this week.

The new market will replace the existing market which dates back to the 1960s and is 'falling down', the council said.

Traders have been issued with information packs spelling out the criteria they must meet to be accepted for a new pitch. Being neatly dressed and committing to more eye-catching displays – local Press has been debating the demand for live lobsters in Blackburn – are included on the evaluation checklist. Traders also face an increase in rents to pay for the new market.

Local traders opposed the plans on the basis the market should remain true to its more traditional roots rather than aspiring to become a European market. The council says Blackburn stands to become the retail heart of Pennine Lancashire and a far more attractive shopping destination.

The new market will have entrances from Church Street, Ainsworth Street and from within the shopping centre itself. Connected by escalators and two lifts to the department stores, there will be 127 stalls. Of these, there will be 61 food, 50 non-food, one café, nine café/catering stalls with shared seating and six mini shops.

The relocation of the market will free up one of the largest sites in the town centre for development.

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