MARKET traders in Chester are fuming after the council allowed a continental market to set up on their doorstep selling similar products.

Businesses are already suffering following the relocation of the bus interchange from nearby Princess Street to Gorse Stacks on the other side of the city centre.

Some say takings are down up to 80 per cent and told the Leader yesterday that this latest “betrayal” by Cheshire West and Chester Council “adds insult to injury”.

The authority’s market office sent a letter to all Chester Market stall holders on Tuesday announcing that the continental market in Town Hall Square would take place at the end of the week.

It stated: “This gives us a great opportunity to attract customers to the Northgate Street area and promote the market to a wider audience.

“The continental market won’t be in direct competition with us and should complement the market nicely.”

So traders were shocked to see the continental stalls open yesterday with goods including jewellery, condiments, 3D posters, fantasy T-shirts and bed linen, all of which are available a short walk away in Chester Market.

Gill Williams, of Gillian’s Crafts, said: “We thought the bus station moving was the final nail in the coffin but this is adding insult to injury!”

And Michelle Parry, of Button’s Electrical, added: “It’s horrific. Everyone’s really struggling right now and then this happens! The council has let us all down badly.”

Christine Haveron, who runs Collector’s Corner, said she was flabbergasted to see a stall outside selling the same 3D posters that she offers.

“They represent about 50 per cent of my takings,” she said. “I’ve invested a lot of money in stock. This is completely undermining our businesses; I feel betrayed.”

She said the council had promised signage directing people from Town Hall Square to the market through the Forum Shopping Centre but none had yet materialised.

Paula Skeoch, who runs P.S. I Love Cake, was one of two traders who told our reporter they had cut their losses and handed their notice in.

“I have no faith in the council that they can turn this around,” she said.

Ayub Mohammed, of clothing stall Reflections, said there should be people handing out leaflets encouraging customers to visit the indoor market as well as the outdoor continental one.

“We only got the letter one day before the [continental] market opened – why?” he said. “They must have known about this for weeks.

“Trade in here has dropped by 70 to 80 per cent. That’s no lie, if anyone wants to see my books they’re welcome.”

In a statement, Cllr Brian Clarke, cabinet member for economic development and Infrastructure at CWaC, said: “The continental market organised by [Modern Markets] wasn’t in competition with our indoor market. The market generated increased footfall around the Town Hall Square.

“We had signage and leaflets encouraging visitors to the indoor market. Many of our market traders have encouraged alternative market offerings on the Town Hall Square which increases the footfall into the market. The Town Hall Square is a natural linkage into the Forum shopping centre; the continental market clearly demonstrates this by the footfall into the Forum and market.”