OPPOSITION is growing to Tesco’s plans for a new branch in Goring.
Residents have formed an action group called Stop Tesco in Goring and are calling on the supermarket giant to back down.
About 1,300 people have signed the group’s petition, which was circulated online and among local shops and businesses.
Goring’s independent traders have weighed into the debate, saying a Tesco in the village would destroy their livelihoods.
Many are displaying posters and banners in their windows bearing the slogan “Stop Tesco in Goring”.
Residents are also displaying the posters on their front doors and gates and some have been attached to lampposts.
Tesco wants to open an Express convenience store at the old Queen’s Arms pub in Reading Road, which shut in November.
Its owner Greene King sold the freehold to Ascot Developments, a company based in the British Virgin Islands, for £852,128.
Land Registry records show that Tesco then bought the leasehold for an undisclosed sum.
Rumours of Tesco’s plans circulated for several weeks but the company only confirmed them a few days before Christmas. It will not need planning permission for a change of use but will need consent for specific alterations to the building.
On Friday, 37 members of the group held a protest outside the pub.
They waved printed and hand-drawn placards with slogans including “Tesco, don’t kill our village”, “Save our shops” and “Goring needs houses, not a Tesco”.
Another read “Shuts — every little shop”, a play on the supermarket’s advertising slogan “Tesco — every little helps”.
Protester Maureen Lewis, 66, of Elvendon Road, Goring, said: “A Tesco would be detrimental to the local shops because it’s on the outskirts of the village rather than in the centre.
“If the other shops closed it would mean a much longer journey for elderly people, people with children and so on.
“I’m dead against it and I won’t shop there even if it does open. I think the majority of people here feel the same.
“Our shops offer services that Tesco couldn’t provide and they buy from local suppliers so it could have a knock-on effect on producers.”
Valerie Calladine, 68, of Lycroft Close, said: “We have a vibrant village centre and this would draw traffic away from it. The shops only need to lose perhaps 10 per cent of their profit to become unviable.”
Emrhys Barrell, 65, of Bridle Way, who helped set up the protest group, said: “Goring is fully served by all the shops it could need — we don’t need another one.
“Our existing traders are already struggling with the big out-of-town supermarkets and doing their best to offer a local service.
“They don’t like to shout about it but they’re all right on the edge at the moment. If Tesco comes it is going to be the end of them, it’s as simple as that.”
Mr Barrell said the site was not appropriate for retail use because it is on a narrow road at a busy crossroads with poor visibility and it would be better used for housing. You couldn’t convert the pub into a single house because it’s the wrong place for a high-value, luxury property,” he said.
“However, the plot is ideal for another six or more houses and they would be affordable because of the location. It’s the perfect use for the site — there’s an approach road and plenty of room for car parking. Goring hasn’t really woken up to the housing issue yet but this would go a long way towards meeting its target.”
Henley MP John Howell said: “I welcome Tesco’s interest in Goring.
“However, Goring already boasts a healthy high street with more than 20 shops of every variety, serving the needs of the village and employing 90 local people. The proposed location of the Tesco Express in the former Queen’s Arms, a quarter of a mile from the village centre, is likely to take away from existing business. It is simply the wrong location.
“In addition, it is far from ideal for access both for pedestrians and for larger delivery vehicles which would have considerable difficulty.
“The site is better suited to the provision of affordable accommodation.”
Some residents have expressed support for Tesco’s proposal.
A pressure group has been set up on Facebook called Backing Tesco in Goring.
Founder Marcus Wormald, from Streatley, told the group’s 22 members: “Goring and Streatley are both stuck in an older generation where any change is deemed bad.
“The trade that Tesco will be taking is from McColl’s, a nationwide newsagent which charges a rather obscene amount of money for its products.
“Tesco will allow a cheaper alternative and will reduce the need for people to drive to, say, Woodcote for the Co-op just because either McColl’s is not stocked enough or over-priced.”
A Tesco spokeswoman said: “We believe that this would make an excellent site for an Express and have been pleased to hear from residents who welcome our plans.
“Customers tell us that our Express stores are ideal for top-up shopping in between a larger weekly shop and we believe this store would be popular locally.
“We recognise that some residents have questions and concerns around our proposals and look forward to consulting with the community in the coming weeks.”
* Almost 600 people attended a meeting to discuss Tesco’s plans at the village hall on Wednesday evening.
The hall was packed and hundreds more people spilled on to the streets outside under umbrellas. A loudspeaker system was set up so that people outside could hear the debate.
Tesco’s representatives answered questions and there was also a presentation by Rob Jones, founder of action group Stop Tesco in Goring, which called the meeting.
A vote was taken and most of the 300 people inside opposed the scheme. Twelve abstained from voting and just three were in favour.
A full report will appear in next week’s Henley Standard.