A market set up in a small village to help the vulnerable during lockdown has been shut down – for breaching an 800-year-old charter signed by King Henry III.
Located in a pub car park in Sileby, Leicestershire, the market started off life as a one-man operation nine weeks ago after a local set up a fruit and vegetable stall to help feed people reluctant to take public transport into nearby Loughborough.
It proved a hit in the village, which has a population of 8,000, and now boasts nine individual stalls selling fresh vegetables, bread and flowers.
Elderly or disabled members of the community viewed the market as a chance to socialise safely after being locked down, organisers said.
But traders will now be forced to shut up shop due to a 1227 charter, signed 12 years after the Magna Carta, which prohibits any market “within six miles and two third miles” (10.8km) of Loughborough to protect the town’s trade.
Sileby is only five miles (8km) outside of the town.
Organisers Gary O’Connor, 59, who runs the pub, and Steve Smith, 51, who set up the first fruit and veg stall, criticised the law for its impact on elderly residents.
Mr Smith said: “It’s a lovely atmosphere because the elderly have been lonely while locked up as they were unable to see each other.
“Many simply don’t want to risk travelling further afield or use scooters which means they cannot get on the bus.
“Even if we can’t have a permanent market we would like to keep it in place during lockdown.”
An online petition to save the market has been signed by 1,300 people and a further 300 have signed a paper version.
Residents also directed hostility at the decision on Facebook.
Sarah Simmonds-Townsend wrote: “An 800-year-old charter is a red tape that needs to be removed.”
Clare Amess wrote: “The royal charter should be suspended while the Covid-19 crisis is happening. Ultimately, small village markets like this might encourage people to return to the larger markets once this is over.”
Janice Ward wrote: “Absolutely disgusting. Older people cannot even manage to get on a bus. Where is your sense?”
Sandra Pickett wrote: “This has really annoyed me. It’s something so good for the whole community, including the traders trying to make a living during an awful time.”
The council said allowing the market to continue trading would “set a precedent for others which would considerably impact the 799-year-old Loughborough Market”.
It added that stallholders had been told to pause trading while the situation is reviewed, and said it would “work with” organisers and “investigate” alternative options.