ONE of Goring’s oldest independent businesses has shut.
Nappers Fine Foods in High Street, which was founded by William Henry Napper about 100 years ago, ceased trading following a closing-down sale last week.
It is understood that Ram Chandar, who took over the delicatessen and general stores two years ago, chose not to renew his lease.
It comes as Tesco moved another step closer to setting up shop in Goring. The company says it will submit a planning application to convert the former Queen’s Arms pub into an Express convenience store this week.
Campaigners opposed to Tesco’s arrival have claimed this store would take trade away from the independent retailers in the centre of the village.
Stuart and Anita Hunt, of Bridle Way, Goring, own the Grade II listed Nappers building as well Napper’s Cottage next door. They have put the cottage up for sale but are said to be looking for a new tenant for the business.
The couple bought the building and took over the store when the founder’s grandson Michael retired about five years ago. They ran the shop until leasing it to Mr Chandar.
This week, Mr Chander was not available for comment but when Tesco announced last year its intention move into Goring, he called the news “awful” and said the supermarket giant would “mess everything up”.
Other traders were upset by the closure of Nappers.
Jack Patel, who runs Westholme Stores in Wallingford Road, said: “I was very sorry to see Nappers go. I don’t know why it closed but the village as a whole is very, very quiet at the moment.
“My trade is about a quarter of what it would normally be. I have never known it to be like this in the 25 years I’ve been here.
“It is hard for independent traders to survive because shopping trends in the village are changing. People used to be loyal to local shops but now they visit large out-of-town supermarkets or order everything online.
“Things will become even harder if Tesco opens. It will not bring any more trade into Goring and will take a chunk from what’s left.”
Mr Patel said the closure of Whitchurch Bridge in November had added to traders’ difficulties. Drivers are being diverted through Goring until the bridge re-opens in September and there are parking restrictions in High Street to prevent traffic jams.
Charlie Simmons, the owner of Simmons & Son butchers at The Arcade in High Street, said his trade had also dropped.
He said: “When I heard about Nappers it felt like another nail in the coffin. It’s one less reason for people to want to come here.
“The bridge closure hasn’t helped this year. It’s an amalgamation of things — there’s the loss of parking spaces and issues like internet shopping.
“There is no parking where we are in the village because they’ve completely yellow-lined it off. I used to get customers from other villages but they don’t come here anymore because of that.
“Our landlord has agreed to provide parking spaces at the side of The Arcade but if people don’t want to use their local shops, they will lose them.
“I don’t think money is an issue — most people shop online out of convenience. If they even shopped locally once a fortnight it would make a huge difference.”
Richard Roberts, co-chairman of the Goring Gap Business Network, said: “It is clearly very sad that such a long-standing business with a lengthy tradition in the village has decided to shut.
“I think quite a few businesses feel this way as it was something of an institution back in its day.”
Mr Roberts said it was “unlikely” that another food shop would take over because of Tesco’s plans.
Meanwhile, Tesco said it was planning a new shop front, signage, canopy, refrigerated storage unit and space for plant equipment at the former pub in Reading Road.
It does not need permission for a change of use but does require consent from South Oxfordshire District Council for minor structural alterations.
A Tesco spokeswoman said the company had decided not to seek permission for a cash machine after protesters said this would draw shoppers away from the village centre.
The pub closed in November last year and was sold by Greene King to a developer registered in the British Virgin Islands. Tesco signed a 20-year lease on the site later that month.
A protest group called Stop Tesco In Goring was formed and invited Tesco to explain its plans at a public meeting in the village hall in January.
About 600 residents attended the meeting and a poll taken at the end showed all but a dozen or so opposed the scheme.
The protestors have also organised a petition against Tesco’s plan which now has more than 2,000 signatures.
They say the pub site is unsuitable for the shop because it is on a dangerous junction with Wallingford Road with poor visibility and the pavement is narrow.
Goring Parish Council did not oppose Tesco’s plans but has resolved to put pressure on Oxfordshire County Council to improve road safety at the junction.
Rob Jones, of Stop Tesco in Goring, accused the company of failing to consult the community.
It held one private meeting with parish and district councillors and a handful of residents who had expressed support for the Express store.
Mr Jones said: “Tesco always said it would put in a minor works application when it had consulted the village but so far the consultations have only involved about eight people. We will continue to fight this application in whatever way we can.”
Ann Ducker, the leader of the district council who represents Goring division, called the meeting with Tesco “disappointing”.
She said: “We only talked about signage and how it would look on the pub because they don’t need planning permission.
“The signs they showed us were all red and blue and completely out of keeping with the area and what we discussed back then hasn’t even been implemented in what they’ve finally submitted.
“Our planning officers held a meeting with them as well and their final submission is not what they discussed either.
“I do question why we bothered going through this process if this is what’s coming through but we shall have to wait and see.
“There were no more meetings after the first one with a handful of carefully chosen people. There’s no sign that they have consulted with the wider community whatsoever.
“Their representative told us that they don’t hold public meetings because too many opponents turn up, so they only work with small groups of people who are in favour. It means their consultations are very limited.”
Parish council chairman Alan Strong said he was pleased that Tesco had agreed to a request not to have a cash machine but declined to discuss the issue further.
The Tesco spokeswoman said the company had carried out independent traffic and safety assessments.
She said: “We have been pleased to hear from many residents who would like to have an Express store in the village and be able to shop locally more often.
“We recognise that there are still those who have concerns about our plans.
“However, we are confident that, should our plans be approved, the store would be popular with customers and become a well-used local facility.”