Opposition mounts over market closure plan

Thousands of residents and traders have backed a last-ditch campaign to save an historic Lancashire market.

Today is D-Day for the future of the indoor Lancaster Market.

Council chiefs have lined up a "single retailer", thought to be a low-cost supermarket, to move into the premises in Common Garden Street.

The move would leave more than 120 traders and market staff out of work, although the council says some could be accommodated at other markets or shop units.

But a debate on its future at a full council session in Morecambe today is set to be preceded by a protest march from Lancaster Market to Morecambe Town Hall.

More than 4,000 people have signed a petition placed in bars and shops across the city to keep the market open.

And thousands of messages have been posted on at least seven separate campaign pages started on social networking site Facebook.

The biggest has more than 4,300 members.

One message, from Andrew Wood, said: "The market is, or should, be the centre of any old village town or city, it is a crime that the council's neglect and business incompetence should be allowed to destroy it for Lancaster."

Denis Buczynski, of the Lancaster Market Tenants' Association, is due to address today's council meeting and call for the markets to be saved.

Opposition groups at Lancaster Council have also criticised the plans, calling them "unacceptable" – and have vowed to challenge them.

Coun Jon Barry, of the authority's Green Party, said they will back proposals put forward by traders: "We are putting a proposal to do what the tenants are saying, which is to let the tenants go to the top floor and just let the ground floor to a retailer."

"We are hopeful we can get that through."

City centre Green Coun Anne Chapman said: "The council says it wants to help stallholders, but is offering them nothing.

"Indoor markets are a huge success in other towns and we need to make it one here, not close it down and put 120 people out of work."

Coun Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster Council's Labour Group, said: "The Labour Group supports the public view that every effort should be made to keep the market open.

"We believe that the current proposals before the council are unacceptable because of the huge costs and risks involved."

Coun Stuart Langhorn, leader of Lancaster City Council said: "An annual loss of almost 495,000 is not sustainable."

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