Saturday, 05 December 2020

Anger as Tesco plans store in former pub

TESCO is facing opposition to plans to open a branch in Goring. The supermarket giant wants to open an Express

TESCO is facing opposition to plans to open a branch in Goring. The supermarket giant wants to open an Express store at the former Queen’s Arms in Reading Road.

The pub closed last month and was then sold by Greene King, which said the business was “unviable”.

Rumours of Tesco’s plans began spreading around the village earlier this month and a banner with the slogan “No Tesco here” was attached to security fencing around the site.

This week, the supermarket chain confirmed its plans to the Henley Standard, saying it did not own the property but had been given the option to lease it.

It would not need planning permission to change the use but would need consent for specific alterations such as illuminated signs or a cash machine.

Tesco said it would “improve and restore” the building and would consult the community on its plans.

The company has agreed to attend a question-and-answer session at the village hall on January 8 at 7pm, organised by Bill Jackson, chairman of Sheepcot Residents’ Association.

Mr Jackson, of Gatehampton Road, said: “We will try to keep the meeting orderly but we want to discuss it at length with them. A lot of people have expressed concern about the impact on our independent traders but we might also find some residents approve of it.

“We shall see what people think on the night. We would like as many people as possible to attend.”

Traders are opposed to Tesco’s plans because they fear losing trade to a supermarket.

Ram Chandar, who owns Nappers Fine Foods in High Street, said: “It’s awful because our little shops are only just surviving as it is.

“Goring has a strong community of independent retailers but if Tesco comes along they’ll mess everything up and kill them all. They shouldn’t be allowed to do it but unfortunately they can do what they like without worrying about other people’s feelings.”

Jack Patel, who owns Westholme Stores in Wallingford Road, said: “We will have to fight them — I think the whole village will. We do not want them here as they will ruin the character of the village.

“I’m furious because we’re trying to make a living and they’re coming in to try to take our bread and butter away. Why can’t they just mind their own business? If they come here I think I will go on a hunger strike — they’re going to finish me off anyway so I might as well.”

Charles Simmons, the owner of butchers Simmons & Son in The Arcade, said: “We’re all against it but is it going to make any difference?

“They get away with what they’ve done for years and the Government and local councils haven’t done anything to stop them. They’re a law unto themselves. They just come into rural communities and destroy people’s livelihoods. You see the same old story over and over again across the country.

“If they get their way it’s going to be a monstrosity on a very busy corner for traffic — and we’ll all be out of work. It’s all right them having stores out of town but their infiltration into villages is just not on.” John Boler, of the Goring and Streatley Amenity Association, said: “A Tesco Express on the edge of Goring would threaten the viability of the existing stores that sell groceries and fresh food.

“It would also undermine the other shops that rely on strong footfall in the centre of the village. How long before we see tumbleweed rolling down Goring High Street? We understand that planning permission would not be required and developers could complete the shop fitting in a few weeks. This limits severely our opportunity to influence the outcome.

“Our other fear is traffic chaos. If it goes ahead vehicle access for customers and deliveries will have to be managed carefully to avoid increasing traffic hazards at one of the busiest road junctions in Goring.”

The Campaign for Real Ale is lobbying the Government to make it harder for pubs to be converted into shops. It claims that, since 2010, an average of one pub a week has been converted into a convenience store and that more than half have been bought by Tesco.

The company has denied targeting pubs and says its stores create new jobs in villages. A spokeswoman said: “We hope local people will find the store ideal for top-up shopping in between a larger weekly shop. We plan to improve and restore the existing building, which has been closed for some time, and look forward to consulting with the community in the coming weeks.”

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