Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Council raise issues with Tesco’s plans

GORING Parish Council has vowed to demand road safety improvements if a Tesco is built in the village.

Members say they are concerned about the supermarket giant’s plans for an Express store at the former Queen’s Arms pub in Reading Road, which opponents say could threaten the future of the village’s existing shops.

Tesco does not need planning permission for the change of use but critics say the site is unsuitable because it is on a dangerous junction with Wallingford Road with poor visibility and the pavement is narrow.

The council held an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday last week where it resolved to approach Tesco and Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, to discuss ways of making the site safer. About 40 residents attended.

Councillor David Brooker told the meeting: “The junction is dangerous due to the implications of constant vehicle movements from customers and delivery lorries.

“If this is moving forward, we need everyone working together to address the problem.”

Councillor Lawrie Reavill said: “I have general reservations but we must be pragmatic and focus on the key issues. We have to accept that, if it is legal for Tesco to open a store at the site, then of course it is going to happen.

“We need to ensure that area is safer. It is not safe at the moment and will be even worse with a major retail outlet there.”

Councillor Kevin Bulmer, who also sits on the county council, said: “When I first heard Tesco was coming, I didn’t believe it. It didn’t strike me as a particularly good site and I felt it would be better for housing.

“But if we’re going to have a Tesco — and I’m not aware of anything that’s going to stop them — we need to make sure what goes there is safe.”

Council chairman Alan Strong said: “I would prefer that Tesco did not operate in Goring as our individuality makes us interesting as a village. However, we all agree that Tesco will go ahead and will only leave if it is not supported.

“I am extremely concerned about traffic on that junction and believe a Tesco would increase the risk of accidents. It is up to the parish council to have words with Tesco and the county council highways team about what can be done.”

The pub shut in November and was sold to a property developer by former owner Greene King.

Then Tesco confirmed it had signed a lease and wanted to open a convenience store, prompting a campaign by a group of residents called Stop Tesco in Goring. They organised a petition which has been signed by more than 1,800 people.

Earlier this month, the group organised a public meeting at the village hall attended by hundreds of people where Tesco officials defended the plan. At the end of the meeting, there was an overwhelming vote against the store.

Other residents have criticised the campaign and say Goring’s shops need to improve.

Danny Maher, from Crays Pond, told the council meeting: “I do not particularly want a Tesco in Goring but feel the ‘no’ campaign has made no attempt to canvas the views of the entire community.

“I feel stunned that some local businesses have supported a campaign which has ignored many people who, like it or not, want a Tesco.

“This is mainly because they feel the current shops do not adequately provide for their needs. We will be much stronger as a community if we work together on understanding why people want a Tesco.

“Let’s engage with everyone and make everyone want to choose local business. If Tesco does come, we will then be able to show we don’t need them. That is how you get the support of the entire community and is the best way to defeat Tesco today, tomorrow and in 50 years.”

Mr Maher is working with Kamlesh Patel, whose brother Jack owns Westholme Stores in Wallingford Road. The pair will meet members of the Goring Gap Business Network later this month and hope to announce more plans in the near future.

John Boler, chairman of the Mobility Issues Group for Goring and Streatley, said he was concerned about traffic but argued this was no reason to object to the store.

He said: “The villages have to change to meet the needs of all 4,250 residents, many of whom feel so intimidated by the anti-Tesco hysteria that they are afraid to speak out. These people also deserve to be heard.

“Some do not have the means to travel to Wallingford, Henley or Didcot to pick up special offers. The problems at the pub should not be insurmountable if the parish council, county council and Tesco work together on a solution.”

Rob Jones, founder of Stop Tesco in Goring, told councillors: “We have 1,100 names on our electronic petition, 54 pages of signatures on the petition at Westholme Stores and over 500 likes on our Facebook page.

“When will you listen to the overwhelming public opinion that says we do not want a Tesco in that location?”

Cllr Bulmer said: “I have listened to a lot of people in the village. It seems about 20 per cent are against Tesco, 20 per cent are in favour and the rest are ambivalent.

“I am not as pessimistic as some people about our local shops and believe it’s for them to adjust their business models to attract customers.”

Cllr Strong said: “The present Goring shops will survive if they provide the products and services that residents want.”

Tesco says the store will be “sympathetic” to the character of Goring and has promised to hold further public consultations.

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