A LEADING Malvern Hills district councillor is calling on the authority to exercise its right to hold markets in the Waitrose car park.

Coun Roger Hall-Jones said the Friday market is in "apparent decline" on its current site in the Council House car park.

He said it now occupies about "half the space" that it did when it was sited on the old Back Lane car park, which vanished beneath the Waitrose development.

As part of the negotiations over the supermarket site, Waitrose agreed that part of its car park can be used to site a market, except on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

At Tuesday's meeting of the district council, Coun Hall-Jones called on the council to reassure the public that it is committed to enabling the market to continue in the town centre.

Coun Reg Farmer, the council leader, said: "The matter has not been forgotten and I will ensure that a report comes back from the Executive Board as soon as possible, but realistically, this is not likely to be for several months."

He said results of a car park survey currently being carried out by the council would prove useful in planning the way forward.

Market operator Mark Skett, of E G Skett and Co, said that allowing Waitrose to rule out the use of its car park on Fridays was MHDC's biggest mistake.

He said: "The market has been on Friday for the last 20 years or more and Friday used to be the busiest shopping day in the town."

He agreed that the market was in decline, saying attendance by traders was down about 30 per cent since the move.

"We feel we're being neglected by the council. The Council House car park is just too far out of the town centre. A lot of people in Malvern are elderly and do not want to climb hills."

He said the ideal solution would be to move the market to Waitrose car park on Fridays, but recognised that was unlikely.

In 1991, plans to change the day of the market provoked massive public opposition and were abandoned.