MARKET traders are backing calls to use the closed Moor Lane bus station as a car park.

The idea has been floated with Bolton Council as a means of driving more footfall towards Bolton Market, after some stallholders reported a drop in trade since the station’s closure in September.

The Bolton News reported this week that three stalls have closed on the market, though town hall bosses have reported that the majority enjoyed a ‘tremendous’ trade over Christmas.

However, traders have said that making use of the bus station site — which is currently awaiting demolition — would provide a welcome boost for businesses whether they are prospering or struggling.

Council bosses are hoping that the bus station could be used for housing as part of its masterplan for the town centre, but the town hall is yet to take over the site from Transport for Greater Manchester.

Diane Whittingham, who runs the Mystic Emporium stall, said: “I have not found that there has been a downturn in trade. I can’t speak for everyone, but I have just moved into a bigger unit. This was my sixth Christmas here and I am doing well. I think it would be very useful to have the bus station as a car park.”

Alain Job, of the Nkono food stall, said: “It would be a great idea. Anything that can improve people’s access to the market is good.”

Kim Adams, from the D P Hamer fish and meat stall, added: “I think it could definitely be used as a car park. We had a pretty good idea that there would be a drop in trade when the bus station closed, so if they aren’t going to develop it for a while then I think this would be a fantastic idea.”

UKIP councillor Paul Richardson is among those to have suggested the car park idea for the bus station, which is still owned by Transport for Greater Manchester. e also accused the town’s ruling Labour group of ‘incompetence’ by moving buses to the new £48 million Bolton Interchange.

He said: “The Labour group controlling the town have again shown incompetence by moving the bus station away from the market, resulting in a reduced footfall.

"I fear that Bolton Market may go the same way as Farnworth Market, which closed down completely after years of neglect by the Labour-run council. This Labour group have presided over the decline of Bolton town centre and this is another example of their complete lack of vision. Anyone could see that relocating the bus station would have an adverse effect on trade at the market, yet they failed to address this and have not listened to market traders, some of whom have been at the market for over a quarter of a century.

“In the short term, to encourage more footfall for the market, perhaps the council could consider using the now deserted bus station as a time-limited car park — with the first three hours free of charge. After all, the bottom half of the land was for decades a free car park.”

Labour’s Cllr Nick Peel said: “There are over 160 stalls operating from our award-winning Bolton Markets. The historic site has undergone significant investment under the Labour authority.

“The market is less than a five-minute walk from the new bus station and it continues to be served by the free shuttle bus and free weekend car parking, that we also introduced.

“These comments demonstrate just how out of touch and irrelevant UKIP has become.

“The £40 million interchange, which was a crucial development, and our billion pound vision, has received cross-party support for the good of our town, both for attracting greater footfall to the town centre and the economic benefits that better connectivity brings.

“There is a waiting list for local entrepreneurs to fill vacancies that naturally arise from time to time. We should be thanking our entrepreneurs for the sterling work they do and the business they bring.”