PLANS to reduce a "tatty" town market by half as part of an £80m town centre redevelopment should be rejected, a report says.

Earlier this year, planners in Stockton published plans to demolish prominent buildings and redesign the town centre.

Part of the plan was to create permanent market stalls, which would cut the size of the bi-weekly market in half.

The plans have been advocated by officers at Stockton Borough Council since they were published by consultants Drivers Jonas last May.

Other ideas included demolishing half of the Castlegate shopping centre, creating a public square, opening cafs and restaurants and re-connecting the town to the river and a "riverside village".

The market was described as tatty by a leading author of the Drivers Jonas report, who said it harmed the town's image.

However, in a fresh report, rival consultants Quarterbridge said the market, which dates from 1310, should be protected.

It says: "We cannot agree with the Drivers Jonas report that the market is doing the image of Stockton harm.

"We have experience of other towns, where major capital investment has been made on civic image like pedestrianisation, while ignoring the market. The result has been lost economic activity and a sterile, over-designed town."

The number of stallholders at Stockton's market, and others in Billingham and Thornaby, has fallen by 20 per cent in four years. However, there has been a 250 per cent rise in the number of shoppers in town on market days.