Somersham villagers unite against Tesco

PROTESTORS are threatening to march through the centre of Somersham and boycott Tesco goods in a bid to stop a proposed store from opening in their village.

PROTESTORS are threatening to march through the centre of Somersham and boycott Tesco goods in a bid to stop a proposed store from opening in their village.

Saturday saw around 150 people take to the streets waving placards and chanting ‘Tesco out’ in response to plans to turn the former Black Bull pub in High Street into a Tesco Express.

A letter announcing the proposal, which is expected to create 20 part-time and full jobs, was pushed through residents’ doors on Thursday morning ending nearly two months of speculation.

Rumours were rife the former pub had been sold to the supermarket giant following its shock closure at the beginning of January, but Tesco had refused to confirm or deny the reports until last week.

More than 230 people have signed up to a Facebook protest page and footage of the protest has been posted on to YouTube.

Calls have been made to stop using the existing Tesco One Stop store and a petition has been circulated to local stores.

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Speaking on Saturday, organiser Alison Santos said: “I think the turnout today has been brilliant. It’s one of the great things about living in Somersham, people do support things like this. Tesco is coming but the petition is our way of giving people their chance to have their voices heard.”

She added later she was appealing to Tesco to send a representative to meet residents and discuss their plans.

“They keep saying they are revitalising Somersham, but we have got everything we need here. I would just like to change their approach on how they go into villages. They need to give the appearance of listening to people,” Mrs Santos said.

Tushar Patel, owner of J W Anderson pharmacy said he feared the store could take away as much as a third of his trade. The pharmacy has been operating in the High Street for 60 years.

Mr Patel said: “It will change the status of Somersham. It will no longer be an independent community with independent shops. Tesco will have an impact, that might not be for six months or a year.

“Tesco is not the cheapest, but it is nice and convenient, and people will support it. We will do what we can, but if after six months or so, we are finding a drop in counter trade, we will have to think ‘do we give up a staff member?’

“Tesco might create 20 jobs, but there will be just as many lost.”

Trader Shaney Soteriou said: “I fear and worry about the impact Tesco will have on Somersham as a village. All I have seen about these big companies moving into small villages is that it sucks the life and soul out of the place.”

Other traders refused to comment on the proposal for fear of reprisals from the supermarket giant.

There has been a backlash against the anti-Tesco tirade with some welcoming the move.

Hunts Post reader Doug Hobbs said: “If the One Stop Shop can be reused and the Post Office relocated then lets be honest it will be good for Somersham if Tesco comes here with an express store.”

Planning permission for the store is not needed as the pub is currently covered for retail use, but an application for minor changes including a new shop front, ATM and signs is expected in the next two weeks. Plans are to open the store this summer.

Huntingdonshire district and Cambridge county councillor Steve Criswell said: “I have said those that would like to sign a petition to say they do not wish Tesco to come to the village and they won’t use the shop, I would be happy to present that to Tesco on their behalf. If there is enough people giving that strong message, Tesco may not risk it.

“My main concern is that it could threaten the viability of the existing shops, and if those shops close it would affect the vibrancy of the village.”