BUSINESSES that will be left homeless after a shopping centre operator announced it was going into liquidation are being invited to set up shop in a historic North-East market.

Traders and other tenants in InShops centres across the country received letters on Friday telling them they had seven days to vacate their premises before liquidators were appointed.

Liverpool-based InShops, owned by Anglo-French market operator Geraud Markets, told retailers by letter that the company had suffered from increasing losses and was unable to generate sufficient cash to allow it to continue.

Leaseholds will end by close of trading on Friday and the units handed back to the landlords.

To help those affected by the collapse, markets officers are inviting homeless businesses from InShops in Consett, Thornaby and Bishop Auckland to set up shop in Darlington’s historic Covered Market.

The market, which celebrated its 150th anniversary last year, has about seven vacant stalls available for rent at £60 to £70 per week.

Albert Nowicki, senior markets officer at Darlington Borough Council said: “Times are hard for everyone so hopefully we will be able to help some of them out.

“We are helping them out and they are doing us a favour by filling up our market.”

The market is currently home to more than 30 businesses, and Mr Nowicki said various incentives will be offered to new businesses who wish to renovate the vacant stalls to suit their needs.

“There is constant footfall, they will have support from the council and it is in the heart of the town centre,” he said.

“The stalls are also cheaper than the outdoor market and offer trading for six days of the week.

“Historically Darlington has been known as a market town - we have had them here for more than 1,000 years.”

Samantha Blackham, who runs The Diner in the Covered Market said: “I love Darlington, and for someone who is just setting up the Covered Market is small and manageable, as going it alone is a really big thing.

“We have good footfall here, especially if you promote yourself on social media.”

Anyone interested in setting up a stall can contact Robert Young, estates manager at Darlington Borough Council, on 01325-388738.