Tesco row at Somersham continues

PROTESTORS against Tesco converged on a Somersham Parish Council meeting on Monday in a further bid to halt a controversial proposal to open a store in the village.

Around 45 villagers met at The Cross for a peaceful march to the parish council offices in Parkhall Road, before grilling councillors on the bid to turn the Black Bull pub into a Tesco Express. It follows an earlier protest outside the pub by 150 Somersham residents.

Organiser Alison Santos said Monday’s meeting had helped to answer concerns, but she admitted the supermarket giant were unlikely to back down.

A planning application to install an ATM, install illuminated signs and move a BT pole have been submitted to Huntingdonshire District Council. No application needs to be submitted for change of use at the site.

Mrs Santos said: “The parish council had gone and found out answers to our questions. They also understood our frustration with the planning process.

“I have friends who run a fish and chip shop who wanted to put double glazing in. They had to apply for planning permission and it was turned down.

“How can it be so draconian on one hand, and then Tesco seem to be able to do what they want on the other?

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“I know that we can’t stop Tesco coming to the village, but it would be nice if we could play a part in trying to ensure that rules are changed so they can’t just arrive in a village through the process of buying a pub.”

Parish council chairman Steve Criswell pledged to petition MP Shaliesh Vera for legislation regarding change of use to be amended. A meeting is also due to be held between councillors, protestors and a Tesco representative within the next few weeks.

Last week Tesco announced 60 per cent of Somersham residents who replied to letters sent out in February announcing the new store were in favour of the move.

Tesco spokesman Carol Leslie said: “We understand there will be concerns. With any change that’s only natural. Somersham is a lovely little village and we know people are very loyal to their local shops as they should be.

“But more choice can only be good for shoppers and an area can only continue to prosper by providing variety, choice and the services of different shops to keep people shopping there. We don’t want to be seen as a threat but a welcome addition to the village.”