WINCHESTER civic chiefs have justified the controversial closure of the Antiques Market.

Stallholders have been sent letters by the city council informing them that they have to quit the building by June 9.

A council statement said: "The King’s Walk building in the centre of Winchester that is home to the Antiques Market requires considerable improvements to the structure. The City Council has kept the current tenants informed.

"Due to the cost of work, the Council has taken the decision to close the building in June. The building would require significant works to keep it safe for continued retail use and the cost substantially exceeds income from rents."

The statement added: "The building dates from the Victorian era but it is not listed. There is no current intention to demolish the building.

The Antiques Market is part of the history of Winchester and the council has offered help to the current tenants to relocate. There is a need to balance support for local businesses with sound stewardship of council-owned property.

"The building is in the central Winchester regeneration area but no decisions have been made on the future use of the building.

Consideration will be given to short-term options for the building, pending any proposals for the redevelopment of the area. Alternatives such as storage may be possible without the level of investment required for continued retail use.

Winchester’s on-street Antiques and Collectables Market which regularly attracts 60-80 traders is unaffected. The street market is held on the first Sunday of every month on the High Street.