CAMPAIGNERS in Areley Kings say they will fight plans by a supermarket giant to replace the village pub with a Tesco Express store.

Tesco has taken a lease from Punch Taverns for the Squirrel Inn and could open at the Areley Common site later this year. Planning applications are likely to be submitted in the coming weeks, during which the Squirrel will continue to trade.

A “No to Tesco in Areley Common” group has been started on facebook by residents who say it is “not needed”.

Tesco corporate affairs manager Simon Petar, who will host a public meeting on Monday, March 17, at 7.30pm at Areley Kings Village Hall, said a store would create about 20 jobs and boost the local economy.

Another public meeting, just for local residents, will take place next Thursday, at 8pm at the Methodist Church, Astley Cross.

Resident Mark Bywater told The Shuttle: “Most residents are completely against this – we have already got a Londis. What is the purpose of this? The actual street will not be able to cope with the trucks and cars coming through and parking on one side of the road. It will cause mayhem and it is not really needed in this area.”

Another resident, Robert Lloyd, said they feared current outlets could close, including the Londis Pantry Stores, owned and run by Jim Perry, 86, whose family have been food retailing in Stourport since 1932. Assistant manager Richard Taylor said Mr Perry had been “overwhelmed” by support received from villagers.

Mr Petar said: “It is important the local community are made aware of the plans . We are here to listen, learn, talk and discuss. It is important we give everyone the opportunity to give us their feedback and we have had a number of supportive emails and those that have raised concerns.

“There is every reason to believe we will co-exist and complement the existing independent traders, as we do in villages and small towns across the country.”

A Punch Taverns spokesman added: “ We appreciate the concerns of local residents but we review our estate regularly to ensure our sites are maximising potential and, in some cases, how they may benefit the community under different ownership.”

Meanwhile, Mr Petar also confirmed Tesco had an “interest in” the Angel Inn, also owned by Punch Taverns, in Load Street, Bewdley.

District council leader, Conservative John Campion, said: “The council doesn’t have the power to stop pubs being sold and are bound by national planning laws when it comes to considering their change of use.”