A DECISION to ban market stalls from a revamped town centre has been branded a “death wish” by traders and shoppers.

Stallholders at Newton Aycliffe’s weekly market were given one months notice of its impending closure after town centre owners, Freshwater, terminated its agreement with the licence holder, Great Aycliffe Town Council.

The move has been fiercely criticised by members of Newton Aycliffe Market Traders’ Co-operative, who claim the closure will have a devastating impact on their livelihoods and the town centre in general.

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Freshwater has not confirmed the reason for the decision to The Northern Echo, but traders said they have been led to believe the company regards the stalls as not good enough for the refurbished shopping area.

Neil Herring, who has been selling sweets and eggs at the market for nine years, said: “It is a disgrace. The market has been here nearly 40 years and brings people in from other towns. I am likely to lose around £200 a week.”

Traditionally, the Tuesday market was located in the heart of the shopping centre but traders were shifted to a car park on Greenwell Road last year due to the second phase of a multi-million pound revamp.

The project saw the unsightly concrete ramp and shop canopies removed, a spiral staircase installed and the introduction of new paving, seating and shrubbery.

Next month, Churchill House and the adjoining shops, in front of which the remaining market stalls now trade, is due to be demolished.

Fruit and vegetable seller Derrick Hill said: “We lost a lot of trade during the refurbishment but we hung on in, as we thought we would get to return to the centre. This has come as a shock.”

Regular market-goer Ric Hargreaves, from Newton Aycliffe, said: “I believe the powers that be have a death wish on this town.

“It is like they have given us a new toy but they won’t let us play with it."

Great Aycliffe Town Council said it had no choice but to give notice to the traders, as despite efforts to identify another site for the market, there is nothing suitable.

Freshwater declined to comment.

The last market will be held on Tuesday, May 27.