TRADERS say Westhoughton Market is still going strong despite the impending loss of three stalls.

The handbag, baby and make-up stands are due to leave the market by the end of the year.

But Bolton Council bosses say occupancy has been good, and the departure of traders is part of the nature of the industry.

The market in Market Street bounced back from the brink of closure and was crowned the best small indoor market by the National Association of British Market Authorities earlier this year.

In April last year, the market had been home to only six traders, but the number increased to 33 stalls earlier this year when business was booming.

Cllr David Wilkinson, a member of Westhoughton Town Council, said: “I am concerned about traders leaving. I hope they are going to get filled quickly.

That’s why I am pushing Bolton Council to see what it is doing about investment in the market.

“Bolton Council is investing £4.5 million in Bolton Market and £20,000 has been earmarked for Westhoughton Market — it’s lightbulbs for Westhoughton compared with what is being spent on Bolton Market.”

He is calling for funds earmarked to improve the market to be spent.

Cllr Wilkinson added: “Things like putting the sign outside the market saying how wonderful it was for winning the award took months. My worry is if we have the same plodding approach from Bolton Council it will have a serious impact on the market.”

Cath Higham, trader of the handcraft cards stall, who has been at the market seven years, said events are regularly taking place at the market and it is continuing to do well.

She said: “The market is not going to be anything like what is was more than a year ago. We are just going to continue to provide the community.

“We feel we are in the hub of it. There are still around 30 stalls.

“The three stalls leaving belong to the same family and we are looking for new people. Bolton Market is the central market and we understand it will always be the priority, but we feel we work hard enough to warrant more.”

A Bolton Council spokesman said: “We fully support the market and have a close working relationship with the market traders.

“We have made changes at their request such as extending the opening hours and introducing additional days.

“We have also offered reduced rents on additional market days and organised entertainment for themed events.

“While three traders will be leaving at the end of December, this is the nature of markets. Average occupancy in recent months is 83 per cent of a total of 34 stalls, which is very good for a market in a town the size of Westhoughton.

“Some of the funds have been spent on new signage, banners and cladding in the Market Hall. The remaining money is due to be spent next year.”