MARKET traders in Darlington have reacted angrily to a petition by local history enthusiasts calling for the town’s market to be moved back to the historic market square.

The petition was organised by members of a Facebook group Darlington As It Looked 1880-1980, who say the 1,000 year history of the market square should not be forgotten and will improve the look of the town on market day.

But traders have rejected the argument and say they are happy with their new location on the opposite side of the covered market, where they moved after the completion of the Pedestrian Heart project.

Brian Grubb, a member of the campaign group, said: “Every time someone uploads a picture of the old market square to the site, everyone always says how much they miss it and want it to move back.

“We’ve put petitions around the area and they seem to be getting a good reaction. Some cafe owners were saying they still get people who come to Darlington expecting to see the market and are not happy when they see it spread across the town.”

But Alan Draper, president elect of the National Market Traders Federation, and a Darlington stall holder, said: “Moving back to the market square would be the worst thing we could ever do.

“I was the one who worked tirelessly to get us off the old square in the first place. All you have to do is walk to the square and stand there for a few minutes and you’ll see it’s totally empty.

“No-one goes there. Since we moved the traders have reported a 20 per cent increase in sales.

“I’ve heard people saying ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have back in it’s old place’ - well, no it wouldn’t. If anyone wants to talk to me about it, I’ll explain to them why not because I’m sick and tired of hearing this old idea that we should move back.”

A spokeswoman for Darlington Borough Council, which operates the market, said: "Since the weekly Monday and Saturday outdoor markets moved from the Market Square to our town centre streets, trade has strengthened.

"The Market Square is used for many high profile events throughout the year bringing a great number of people into the heart of Darlington."