BLACKBURN Market will struggle to survive because of falling customer numbers and high charges, a stallholder who quit it last year to open a cafe in Mill Hill has warned.

Sharon Aharoni, who moved from the old premises to the new complex below The Mall when it opened in June 2011, said she could no longer turn a profit there.

Now the 51-year-old is making a success of her new Revolution cafe in New Chapel Street in Mill Hill and is encouraging other traders to make the move to the high street.

Cllr Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Council regeneration boss, denied customer numbers were in decline and said several potential new traders had recently been in touch.

Mrs Aharoni said: "With declining footfall and high service charges, many stalls are going to struggle.

"Unless they get some more interesting stalls and do something about the service charges Blackburn Market is going to struggle and decline and I wonder how long it can go on declining."

Her stall Aharoni's, which specialised in filled sandwiches made with Italian folded Piegata bread, moved from the three-day section of the old Blackburn market.

She also ran a juice bar in The Mall from April but closed both businesses in September and move to her new venture in Mill Hill.

Last month the Lancashire Telegraph revealed that one in three of Blackburn Market's 126 stall are empty.

Miss Aharoni said: "I could not make a living and turn a profit with the cost of the rent, service charges and staff in the Market.

"But I can in Mill Hill where my costs are lower. I would urge market traders not to be afraid of going on to the High Street. You can make a success of it as I have proved."

Half of her stall is now occupied by The Pepper Pot.

Cllr Riley said: “We are proud Blackburn Market is one of the largest and most successful in the North West.

“Our latest figures show that four million customers a year visit the market and that remains consistent . There certainly hasn’t been a fall in numbers.

“Our traders reported an increase in the run-up to Christmas.

“We’re undertaking a recruitment drive to fill any vacant stalls and have had interest from businesses wanting to be located in the market - which is perfectly placed close at the centre of the town."