AS Blackburn Market’s bosses sift through a raft of new applications for stalls, traders are urging potential newcomers to ‘come and join our family’.

They have responded to criticism of the town centre retail hub by banding together to say it is great place to do business.

Last month it was revealed a third of the stalls were empty and last week a former trader warned it would struggle to survive on current levels of footfall.

But eight traders - old and new- approached the Lancashire Telegraph yesterday to sing its praises.

Jacqui Laxton, who set up her Cat and Mouse cheese stall 15 months ago, said: “I am a glad I came. If you get your business plan right you can turn a profit here. It’s really friendly.”

Joanne McNally, from Whittakers Butchers, which moved from the old market to the new hall under The Mall in 2011, said: “If we couldn’t make as success of it we wouldn’t still be here.”

Linda Bell, from Bedford’ Cooked Meats, which also moved from the former premises, said: “It is fine here. We are just taking on another member of staff.”

The friendly atmosphere was a key element for Scott Stewart, who moved his fruit and veg stall into the market in 2011. He said: “It’s a family. Everyone looks after everyone else.”

Andrew Hartley, who owns Octagon Cards and Gifts and Silver Lining Gifts, said: “You can do all your shopping in The Mall and the market under one roof. It’s better than traipsing around in the rain like at Bury and Bolton.”

Lorraine Johnson, of LeRain florists, dismissed concerns about the empty aisle of stalls near the entrance, said: “They have often been empty and used for new stallholders trying it out. This is much better than a shop as you have a lot of passing trade making impulse who and then become regular customers.”

Tom Wood, who bought Pickups Butchers two years ago, said: “It’s really friendly. People should come and join us and our team.”

John Bury, of John’ Hardware, said: “I did my research and looked at every market in the North West and chose Blackburn. I’ve no regrets and am here until I retire, The council is a much better landlord than any private one I’ve had.”

Market manager Clare Turner said: “Since January we have had a spike of interest in new stalls with half-a-dozen serious enquiries, of which three have progressed into detailed talks.”