A MARKET hall was set alight by arsonists just hours after stallholders lowered their shutters for the final time.

Yobs targeted the now empty wooden building, in Curteis Street, Horwich, shortly after midnight yesterday, sparking an asbestos scare just hours after the market closed for the last time.

Now residents and traders fear the building will become a magnet for yobs — and say they are worried for their safety.

Firefighters from Bolton Central and Horwich fought the blaze.

Watch Commander Craig Pinder said: “External wooden cladding measuring around six square metres was on fire.

“It was well alight when we got there. We managed to get the fire under control within 10 minutes and stop it from spreading to the asbestos roof and to the rest of the building.”

Yesterday morning, residents who were still angry at the closure of the market, said Bolton Council had left them with a health hazard on their doorstep.

Tracey Duddridge, ow-ner of the nearby Market Fish and Chip Shop, said: “The building is wooden and would not take much to burn it down. If it did burn down, this shop would be affected by smoke and residents would be put at risk because of the asbestos roof.”

Manager Deborah Fairhurst said: “Is the council going to wait until yobs burn it down and save money like has happened elsewhere in Bolton?

“Instead of giving us something else like a farmers’ market, it has left a hazard on our doorsteps.”

Malcolm Veigas, Bolton Council assistant director of community services, said: “We understand residents are concerned about asbestos but before we can carry out any demolition works, we need to establish the type of asbestos present.

“A survey was due take place on Monday, but we are looking to bring that forward so demolition can start earlier.