TRADERS at Bolton Market are facing a hike in utility bills of up to £780 a year.

But Bolton Council will put the increase in stall holders’ service charges on hold for two years — taking a financial hit of £150,000.

The Ashburner Street site is undergoing a major £4.5 million makeover which will result in expanded stalls and a different internal layout, leaving less rentable space.

The move means the council will have to increase what it collects to cover costs like electricity and waste disposal with stallholders set to be charged between an extra £5 and £15 a week.

Shops on the market will have the smallest increase in charges, equating to a £260 a year rise, fruit and and veg stalls will pay £416 more, while fish stalls will face the full £780 hike.

But the rise will not come into force until 2016-17 due to what the council said was “ongoing hardship faced by small businesses in the economic climate”, with the delay expected to cost the authority more than £76,000 a year. Tony Frame, who has run Salmon Kings stall since 1990, said: “The increase is inevitable isn’t it? The cost of everything has gone up and you can’t have something for nothing.

“The council is trying really hard with the refit and this isn’t a massive amount. In other parts of the country they’ve gone up by 15 or 18 per cent.”

Refurbishment work began in January and the bulk of the renovation is expected to be completed in time for Christmas with work on the car park and servicing area due to finish in 2014.

“Smart meters” will be installed to help stallholders reduce electricity costs, and water meters will also help bring down costs for some stalls, while more recycling will be encouraged.

Market bosses are also looking at installing energy-saving LED lighting and hope it will reduce financial losses.

Cllr Nick Peel, Bolton Council’s executive cabinet member for the environment, said: “The department is able to absorb the cost of the deferment but there’s the real potential for traders to cut down on these costs.

“When we revisit this in two years the rise could be smaller.

“It’s a time of change for the traders and we want them to settle back in and continue to make a success of their business.”

The council said it could not reveal the current service charges stallholders pay as the figure was commercially sensitive.