Charnwood Borough Council has invoked a medieval charter to protect an 800-year-old market from a new local rival.
The council said the royal charter granted by King Henry III still prohibited any other market opening within six and two-thirds miles of Loughborough market, and that the Free Trade Inn Market, in Sileby, was too close.
Jenny Bokor, Charnwood’s lead member for Loughborough, said the council had offered a compromise under which five stalls could operate at Sileby as this was too few to legally constitute ‘a market’.
Bokor said: “Whilst the charter is old it is still in force in Loughborough and other charters are still in use around the country, such as Leicester.
“The principle of these charters is to stop rival markets setting up in the area and damaging Loughborough Market.
“If we did not enforce the charter, a legally recognised power, it could set a precedent and leave us unable to prevent markets popping up in other locations. This would seriously damage the viability of the award-winning Loughborough Market.”
She said the presence of Loughborough market also encouraged custom at other retailers in the town centre.
Charnwood’s action has though angered Sileby Parish Council, which said the market operator had received permission from Charnwood before opening and “it's therefore even more disappointing to find that incorrect information was given at an early stage”.
The parish council said Charnwood should have shown more flexibility given the conditions that have arisen from the Covid-19 pandemic.
It said: “Villagers are very nervous about public transport and going to larger public places which attract larger numbers of people. This market is a lifeline for them to be able to access great, fresh produce on their doorstep.
“It is particularly essential that it continues given the current situation, and organisations across various sectors have realised that current rules and regulations have to bend to allow a 'new normal’.”