A Tyneside town's hope of setting up a weekly market has been dashed by an ancient law involving a donkey. Since the 1200s, South Shields has the right to block rival markets being run less than a day's donkey ride, or six and two-thirds of a mile, away.
North Shields, on the opposite side of the River Tyne, wants its own market, but is blocked by the ancient charter. The president of the North Shields Chamber of Trade and Commerce has now branded the law an ass.
Maggie Richardson said that North Shields needed a market to bring vibrancy to the town centre.
She said: "We have been trying for a number of years to get around this, but every time we have approached South Tyneside Council, they say they were given a market charter some time in the 1200 region by King John, so that no one can set up a market within a day's donkey ride. It's not funny, it's pathetic. The law definitely is an ass."
A spokeswoman for South Tyneside Council said that the ancient six and two-thirds mile exclusion zone referred to the distance a trader was deemed to be able to travel from home, sell for eight hours, then return in a single day.
She added: "South Shields market is both vibrant and popular, and attracts thousands of visitors to the borough every year. It is of great importance to South Tyneside and, as its owner, the council has a duty to protect it from rivals."