IT has already been without its weekly market for almost 12 months.

Now Totton ’s campaign to retain its market town status has suffered another setback.

Residents are being warned that stallholders are unlikely to return until next year at the earliest.

Hopes that Totton would begin hosting a regular farmers’ market before the end of 2012 have been dashed.

The delay is a blow to shoppers and traders – many of whom are likely to benefit if stalls selling local produce attract a large number of people into the town.

A market held in a car park off Salisbury Road was axed several years ago after the number of stalls dropped to just three.

Last August the town council launched a street market at the junction of Water Lane and Salisbury Road but that too collapsed through lack of support.

Civic leaders are anxious to create a new attraction and have spent the past few months exploring a wide range of options.

Town clerk Derek Biggs said: “We’ve tried every possibility and the only one we’re left with is a farmers’ market.

“You can often buy goods as cheaply – or more cheaply – in some of our local shops but farmers’ markets are a bit different. You can buy stuff you probably can’t get in nearby shops.

“Unfortunately the people who run the farmers’ markets are fully booked.”

Totton businessman Steve Shepherd, an ex-councillor and former traders’ leader, confirmed that the market launched last year had faced stiff competition from discount stores.

He added: “A farmers’ market might do better because it’s slightly different. It’s definitely worth trying – and if it’s going to attract people into the town the sooner the better.”

A Hampshire Farmers’ Markets spokesman said dates and locations for 2013 would be decided at a board meeting later this month.

She added: “We’ve been asked to appear at a lot of new places next year but our producers can only attend so many markets.

“It’s a question of looking at suggested locations and seeing which ones would be appropriate.”