A 13th century Royal Charter may be about to prove a thorn in the side of the City of London Corporation’s plans to move two historic markets to Dagenham. 

Late last year, the corporation’s main decision-making body – the Court of Common Council – voted to deposit a Private Bill in Parliament to relocate Billingsgate and Smithfield wholesale markets. 

Currently making its way through the House of Commons, the bill has however received one petition contending the proposed move; from Havering Council. 

In its petition, the council references the Royal Charter of the Liberty of Havering, granted by King Henry III in 1247, which prevents the establishment of another market within 6.6 miles of Romford Market.  

The proposed location of the two markets, Dagenham Dock, sits firmly within this area, so making it liable to be impacted by the Royal Charter. 

While the petition adds the council does not enforce the prohibition “absolutely”, Havering states the bill in its current form fails to stipulate the markets will supply goods on a purely wholesale basis. 

As such, the council is asking for an amendment to limit the markets to exclusively wholesale trade, to avoid it threatening the “integrity and ongoing commercial viability of Romford Market”. 

Barking and Dagenham Post: Romford Market is protected by a Royal Charter dating back to 1247Romford Market is protected by a Royal Charter dating back to 1247 (Image: Melissa Page)

Cllr Ray Morgon, leader of Havering Council, said: “We support the relocation of a wholesale market to Dagenham and welcome the wider economic benefits for the area, however we understand there will be an element of retail trade which is not written into the bill. 

“By Royal Charter of 1247, Romford Market is the only retail market allowed to operate within six and two-thirds miles, and this relocation could cause a potential loss in trade and business to our historic market. 

“Whilst we welcome the move, we ask that the bill be redrafted to restrict the relocated markets to wholesale-exclusive trade. We will be happy to discuss the licensing of any retail on site in the same way that we do for other local markets.” 

This paper has contacted the City of London Corporation for comment.

A City of London Corporation spokesperson told the Evening Standard: “We deposited a private bill to Parliament last November for approval to move our historic markets to Dagenham Dock. Subject to parliamentary consent, Billingsgate and Smithfield will be relocated to the new purpose-built site.

“We believe that the co-location is the best way of securing the long-term future of the markets, providing market tenants with room for growth and modern, environmentally sustainable facilities fit for the 21st century, while stimulating economic growth in Barking and Dagenham.”