GORING risks being seen as a village of “snobs” if it continues to fight Tesco’s plans to open a shop at the former Queen’s Arms pub, a parish councillor has warned.
Speaking at a meeting of the parish council’s planning committee, Catherine Hall said many villagers privately supported the idea but didn’t want to air their views due to vociferous opposition.
The committee was discussing a report by the supermarket chain denying that the new Express store in Reading Road would create a traffic hazard.
Opponents claim that the delivery lorries would have to park at the roadside and would block views of the nearby junction with Gatehampton Road and Wallingford Road.
They also say the pavements in Wallingford Road are so narrow in places that pedestrians would have to step into the road.
Tesco says it will use small, rigid lorries for deliveries that will be able to fit in the car park and that there is no evidence of any risk to people walking to the shop.
Councillor Hall told colleagues: “I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. Tesco has all its ducks lined up in a row and is likely to get permission as it’s better to have a small shop open than a building lying vacant.
“Tesco seems to believe it’s a fait accompli and I think that’s the case — plus some people in the village are quietly in favour, though they don’t want to be seen to actively support it.
“There are lots of private conversations happening and I don’t think that a lot of people are against it. We can’t go on like this forever and I think we’re getting a reputation as snobs.
“I’ve heard people saying, ‘oh, I’m sure you’d be fine with it if it was a Waitrose or a Marks & Spencer’.
“There are general restrictions on lorries in Goring so they would be obliged to use the right vehicles.”
Councillor Matthew Brown, the committee’s vice-chairman, agreed, saying Tesco could open the shop now as it didn’t need planning permission for change of use and only the extension it had applied for.
“We’d still have lorry deliveries and all the rest,” he said.
Cllr Brown also reminded the committee that the council was considering taking South Oxfordshire District Council to court over its approval of a hydro-electric power plant at Goring weir, adding: “Perhaps we need to show that we don’t just refuse every proposal that comes our way.”
But Councillor John Wills said: “Some people might be in favour but I believe a large majority are against it.
“It’s not just about Tesco, I don’t believe the site is suitable site for any development of that kind.
“Tesco has implied it will open a shop anyway but I think that is a bluff. I would still argue that Goring Parish Council should be against this on highways grounds.
“I don’t believe Tesco is going to lay on special lorries just for us. If they broke that promise, who would be responsible for monitoring and enforcing it?”
Councillor Lawrie Reavill said: “The plans themselves haven’t changed. All the aspects we were worried about in the past are still there.”
The Queen’s Arms, which was owned by Greene King, closed in 2013 and was bought by Tesco soon
Tesco has been given permission consent for “minor works” such as signage, a service yard and storage area but is awaiting a decision by the district council on its application to extend the building to create a 2,830 sq ft shop floor.
The company and protest group Stop Tesco In Goring have both commissioned highways reports which reached opposing conclusions on the safety of the scheme.
The committee voted to recommend that planning permission is refused.
* The committee supported plans by Vivienne Lee, owner of the Village Café in High Street, to extend the premises. She wants to add a seating area on the first floor, a disabled toilet at ground level and a dumb waiter.