MP James Grundy has called on the council to reconsider its closing of "essential food stalls" at Leigh Market.

The market was closed last week in response to the tighter social distancing measures that the Government put in place to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

However, the Leigh Conservative MP wrote to council chief executive Alison McKenzie-Folan on Friday, March 27 asking for the market to be opened for "essential food stalls".

He says the closure of food stalls forces vulnerable or elderly people to shop instead in "overcrowded and under-pressure supermarkets where the virus is more likely to spread".

In the letter to the Wigan Council chief executive, Mr Grundy said: "In your previous letter, you outlined that Leigh Market, including its food stalls must remain closed in accordance to Government guidance.

"This guidance, however, states clearly that businesses offering an essential service such as fresh food, should remain open".

He added: "The decision to close Leigh Market in its entirety not only prevents food stallholders access to continue their fresh goods delivery services, it also forces people, especially those who are vulnerable or elderly, to shop in overcrowded and under-pressure supermarkets where the virus is more likely to be spread and where stock is limited.

"Therefore, in accordance with Government guidance, I ask that you reopen Leigh Market for access to both food stallholders and the public as a matter of urgency".

However, the council stood by its decision to close the market, saying it is not classed as a food market and claimed many traders "did not feel comfortable opening" during the pandemic.

A Wigan Council spokesperson said: “After receiving the updated Public Health guidance last Monday, the council decided to close the markets to ensure the health and safety of traders and shoppers.

“Neither Wigan nor Leigh Market is classed as a food market as both offer a range of different products.

“This decision was welcomed by many traders who did not feel comfortable opening given the unprecedented health crisis we face."

They added: “The council is working with traders who have offered a delivery service to the community to ensure all their deliveries are honoured and we will continue to liaise with our traders during this period of closure. No one will be charged rents while the markets are closed to the public.”

“We cannot emphasise enough how important it is to follow the government’s advice and stay at home, apply social distancing and save lives.”