A MAJOR review of Blackburn’s £8million market hall has been launched by the council which said that almost a quarter of its stalls are unoccupied.

Traders have described the bid to boost the complex a year after it opened as “long overdue”.

Borough Tory leader Coun Michael Lee said he will also raise issues concerning the market at next week’s full council forum, including:

  •  The low take-up of stalls
  • The poor state of the floor
  • The sealing off of the frontage of Butlers restaurant for more than a week after a tile fell from the Mall tiling above.
  • Badly working doors.
  • Whether the council has a revival plan.

Market traders said they were angry at the delay in filling empty stalls to help create a busy, lively atmosphere.

The review has been ordered by Blackburn with Darwen council leader Kate Hollern.

The authority has admitted only 77 per cent of the 127 plots were filled, despite promises of 100 per cent occupancy within two months of opening in June last year.

Lorraine Johnson, of Le Rain Florists, said: “A review is long over due. The market lacks buzz.

“It needs some atmosphere. No other business would plough millions into a development and then forget about it.”

Malcolm Marsden, of Whitakers Butchers, said: “This is something they should have done months ago.

“It’s long overdue. The market needs some buzz, some oomph.”

Stewart Cunliffe, of Sanderson’s Bakers, said: “About time, too. We need the market full of proper stalls to give it atmosphere.”

Coun Lee said: “I am very concerned.

“I shall be asking if the fallen tile is an isolated incident or could other areas be at risk, why has it taken so long to put right, and what has been the impact on market footfall.

“I also want to know if the current initiative to increase occupancy fails what other ideas does the council have.” A statement from the council said: “The corporate monitoring report is flagging up that there may be a shortfall of income based on the current occupancy of 77 per cent.

“The review will examine occupancy, lease terms and future alternative projections.”

Keith Holden, market manager, said: “We are aware of the issue surrounding the market hall floor.

“Two new floor cleaning machines have been acquired and deep cleaning is due to take place.”

Engineers were working on the tiling last night checking all the top row of tiles.