An ancient by-law dating from the time of Henry III and the Crusades has scuppered plans for a car boot sale on a 40-acre field off Wolverhampton's busy Wergs Road.
Owners of the field have been told they cannot use it for Saturday events because it would rival the council-run markets at Wolverhampton, Wednesfield and Bilston. The City's Market Charter was granted in 1258 and prohibits anyone from setting up a rival market within six and two-thirds-of-a-mile of any of Wolverhampton's retail markets.
Even though the land, which stretches behind a landmark 980ft wall,at the top of the A41 Wergs Road is officially in Perton, South Staffordshire, the historic document still gives the city council the authority to stop a car boot sale.
South Staffordshire Council is unable to override it even though it is the licensing authority.
Sue Handy, Wolverhampton City Council's head of markets service, said today: "We will invoke our market charter whenever necessary to prevent rival markets setting up as they have a negative impact on Wolver- hampton's retail markets."
Tettenhall Tory councillor Jonathan Yardley said: "Residents had been concerned about the increase in traffic on a busy road that a car boot sale would have brought. Car boot sales are notorious for causing jams."
The owners of the site are currently offering it for sale at £275,000.
They recently spent thousands of pounds lowering the wall, creating an entrance and repairing holes.
Their agent Stephen Berg today declined to reveal their identity but said: "This (the boot sale) would have produced some revenue.
"We are still in discussions with Wolverhampton City Council about it.
"It is interesting that a law drafted many centuries before the invention of the car could be used in this way. I doubt there were many car boot sales in the time of Henry III."
The stone wall has been there since Thomas Telford realigned the Wolverhampton to Shrewsbury Road to its present route in the early 19th century.