THE leader of Hyndburn Council has hit out at opponents who say planned changes in the way Accrington market hall is managed amount to a sell-off.

Recently it was revealed that the council planned to attract an outside investor into the Victorian market, to take on a 125-year lease.

The council, which faced a cash crisis last year, did not have the money to invest in improvements.

But market bosses say they feared traders could suffer and were willing to fight the plans - slamming the move as a 125-year mortgage and labelling it a 'sell off.'

However, council leader Peter Britcliffe revealed today that the market hall will remain, and in fact there had been interest from the local business community in taking on the running of the hall.

He said: "We are actually getting interest expressed and some of the interest is coming from a local entrepreneur in partnership with some of the stall holders.

"This isn't a sell-off of the market hall, it isn't about balancing a budget, it's about attracting the right sort of partner."

When the plans were revealed, traders met with Coun Britcliffe, and said they were willing to campaign if they were not happy with the plans.

But Coun Britcliffe today reassured stall holders the market hall would not be sold off.

He said: "The market hall will remain a market hall. We are looking to work in partnership with an outside investor to take the market hall into the future by developing its huge potential - certainly not to sell it off."

Less than 12 months ago it was revealed that the council was facing a £2million budget deficit.

The financial crisis was blamed on an overspend by the now-abolished works department, increased insurance premiums, reduced market and industrial rents, early retirement costs and leisure spending that had not been budgeted for.

Accrington Town Hall and Oswaldtwistle Civic Theatre could soon be run by a trust, which would take administrative control of the buildings to save the council money.