OPERATORS are being sought for two popular County Durham markets.

Durham County Council is inviting proposals from businesses, community groups or interested parties who would be interested in operating Chester-le-Street and Seaham markets.

The council is looking to award five-year contracts for each site, for Chester-le-Street. on its trading days of Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and Seaham, which operates on Fridays.

The markets are currently managed for the council by one private operator, but its contracts for the two sites, under separate agreements, are due to expire.

Owen Cleugh, the council’s consumer protection manager, said: “Our markets at Chester-le-Street and Seaham are popular and always busy and so these contracts represent really good opportunities.

“The existing contracts are due to expire and we are keen to see who would be prepared to manage these markets going forward.

“We would want our markets to add value to the town centre offer and would welcome submissions from a wide range of potential operators.

“There is still a demand for markets and we want them to thrive.”

He added: “We have a document called the Revitalised Market Strategy and what we would like is for the prospective operators to say how they will look to try and achieve the aims of that strategy. We’ll be looking for a quality offer.”

He added the existing operator would also be able to apply again.

Meanwhile, Durham County Council has approved plans to alleviate flooding in Chester-le-Street. This would involve reopening the culvert in the Market Place to open up Cong Burn to increase its capacity and the relocation the market.

Mr Cleugh said: “We have plans to relocate the market very close by. It will probably be a smaller area, but there will be overspill areas which could be used by traders, if we have sufficient demand for traders.”

The market will continue to trade during and after the works.

Interested parties can submit their proposals to run the markets via the North East Procurement Organisation portal https://www.nepo.org/ until 12 noon on Wednesday February 20.

Prospective operators will need to access the website to register as a supplier before they can submit a proposal. Once they register they will automatically be contacted by email when the opportunity goes live.