SUPERMARKET giant Tesco has come under fire from residents of Areley Kings in a heated debate over plans to open a convenience store in the village.
About 150 people packed Areley Kings Village Hall on Monday to discuss plans to turn the Squirrel pub, Areley Common, into a Tesco Express. It followed a preliminary meeting of residents last Thursday, which saw 100 people fill Areley Kings Methodist Church.
The application’s fate will be sealed in public by councillors on Wyre Forest District Council’s planning committee, possibly next month.
Plans have drawn a mixed reaction since being revealed but residents attending both meetings were overwhelmingly opposed, with major concerns including road safety and deliveries, as well as fears nearby businesses, including Taylor’s Newsagent, the pharmacy and Londis Pantry Stores, could be lost, along with jobs.
Monday’s meeting saw Labour councillor Jamie Shaw, resident Rob Fowler, Tesco corporate affairs manager Simon Petar and planning consultant Rhian Lees face the passionate audience.
Mr Petar said if the store went ahead there would be three deliveries a day and 20 jobs created, although Mr Fowler argued 25 could be lost from other businesses. The site would include 16 car parking spaces and deliveries would take place behind the store.
The majority of objections raised centred around transport fears, including delivery times and size of lorries causing disturbances, pedestrian and child safety and cars being parked on the road instead of the car park.
All audience members raised their hands when asked who would not shop at Tesco Express, with Mr Petar saying the company would open the store at its “own commercial risk”.
Neighbouring residents vented anger at the possibility of noise and light pollution with one, Debbie Carr, telling The Shuttle her house shook when heavy vehicles drove past.
Mr Petar, who was heckled throughout the meeting, said deliveries would not take place between 7am and 9am and 4pm and 6pm and further restrictions could be placed by the council. He said many residents had contacted him to say they wanted to see more choice in the village.
The meeting also discussed ways villagers could object through the planning process and suggested setting up a community group to register the Squirrel as an “asset of community value”, which could give residents a chance to bid for the site.
Summing up, Mr Petar said: “I will be reporting back what has been said tonight and make sure any application is legal and takes into account concerns, particularly around traffic.”
Mr Fowler said: “I do not think Tesco are left in any doubt as to the strength of feeling here. We now have the opportunity to do something, not just go away and grumble.”