TRADERS in Darlington's Victorian indoor market, which is poised for a multi-million pound revamp, say it has fallen into a state of disrepair, with a leaking roof, broken railings and 'grime'.

The market has lost at least three stalls in recent weeks as some traders moved to Durham.

And those remaining fear the feel of the market, with broken railings and drainpipes not being repaired, will put off customers while they wait for the long-expected revamp.

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Market Asset Management (MAM) took over the running of the covered market from Darlington Borough Council two years ago and recently submitted plans to redevelop the site, bringing a 'winter garden' development to the rear, with restaurants and bars, and updating the site to make it a destination.

But Alex Blackham, chairman of Darlington Market Retail Stallholders Association, sent a letter to councillors this week on behalf of all retailers in the indoor market, saying despite the council's claims that traders were being supported and helped, 'not one trader has had any sign or form of help (from the council) since MAM took over control.

In the letter, he offered councillors the chance to visit the market 'and see how dirty and run-down it has become. Open your eyes and take in all of its dirt and grime and note the state of disrepair'.

He added: "These are difficult times, but we are paying rents and running our businesses in very unpleasant conditions. We deserve more from our landlords."

Mr Blackham said that just one councillor, Matthew Snedker of the Green Party, had taken him up on the offer.

Cllr Snedker said: "The indoor market is one of the things that makes the town. The market and the clock tower make Darlington distinctive and not just like every other town." He blamed the council for under-investing for too long in old buildings like the former Arts Centre, the library and the market, then looking for different solutions when they faced a hefty repair bill.

He said the market was run-down, with a leaking roof which was damaging traders' stock, and that stallholders felt less secure than they ever had done before, with higher bills and the feeling that noone would help repair things.

He added: "I would like to see the council actively engage in a partnership, supporting the stallholders and helping MAM rebuild a positive relationship with the traders because there has clearly been a breakdown in trust."

Council leader Heather Scott said the market was the 'jewel in the crown' of the town and added: "I am happy to meet with traders with someone from MAM to discuss their problems. It is difficult because MAM have the contract."

She said the planning application was in and it was difficult for MAM to begin work until it was processed.

MAM and Darlington Borough Council were both contacted for comment but neither had responded at the time of going to print.