A COUNCIL has waived three months' rent for all stallholders on its two town centre markets to help them recover from the coronavirus lockdown.

The decision. announced by Blackburn with Darwen’s finance boss Cllr Julie McGurk at the authority’s executive board on Thursday night, has been welcomed by traders and opposition politicians.

The move will initially cost £500,000 but she hopes to get 70 per cent of the sum back from the government.

It applies to the rents of all stallholders on Blackburn and Darwen markets from March 23 to June 15.

Cllr McGurk said she hoped it would help traders and the two town centres recover from Covid-19 pandemic.

Malcolm Marsden, owner of Whittakers Butchers on Blackburn Market, said: “This is extremely good news. Every little helps. It will be welcomed by traders on both markets. It was the right thing to do.”

Verity Ward, who owns Rushton’s The Bacon Stall on Darwen Market said: “This is excellent news. It will make a massive difference.”

Cllr McGurk made the announcement as she moved her quarterly revenue monitoring report.

She told the meeting: “I would also like to include a further recommendation in respect of the rental income due on both Blackburn and Darwen markets.

“We have considered our markets, both the Blackburn and Darwen markets.

“These markets were closed to the public from March 23 throughout and unable to open until June 15.

“With the market traders, while they received a business rate grant to help cover their business expenditure over that period, now that they are open their footfall is significantly reduced and has been very slow to pick up. Covid is far from over.

“My recommendation is that the rent charged by the council for the three-month period of the lockdown now be deemed irrecoverable.”

Council leader Cllr Mohammed Khan said: “I am very pleased about this decision and I was very concerned because at the end of the day our markets were really suffering. I hope this will give the traders some confidence.”

Cllr John Slater, leader of the Conservative group, said: “I just really welcome this. I think it is needed. I think all the traders have struggled on both markets recently. I am really pleased with this decision.

Growth boss Cllr Phil Riley said: “We thought very carefully about this and decided it would be unfair to leave traders with this bill.”

Darwen East Liberal Democrat Cllr Roy Davies said: “This is good news. Anything that will help traders recover is welcome. Now they need to look at easing parking restrictions to boost footfall.”