Two rival campaign groups have been formed in Thame fighting both for and against a Tesco in the town.
The proposed supermarket at the DAF site in Howland Road is opposed by Thame Centre First, which argues it would harm town centre trade, but backed by Thame Needs Tesco, which claims the town needs a large, affordable store.
Thame Centre First has commissioned a retail impact study on Tesco from property consultants Strutt & Parker.
It says the initial findings show that Tesco will divert trade away from the town centre, and it argues that the store is ‘inconsistent with the adopted planning policy set out in the South Oxfordshire Core Strategy and Thame Neighbourhood Plan, which set out limited requirements for additional convenience shopping and nothing on the scale proposed by Tesco’.
The group has also collected a petition against Tesco with more than 1,000 signatures. Of these 58% of respondents were from Thame itself, while 42% were from other locations, including Haddenham, Chinnor, Chearsley, Shabbington, Ickford, Cuddington, Tetsworth.
The group says this shows how vital a role the centre of Thame plays for shopping and other services not just for Thame residents but the surrounding area.
On board with the anti-campaign are the bosses of Thame’s two independent butchers, Newitt’s and Wren’s.
Tom Newitt, managing director of Newitt’s said: “We urge all our customers to support Thame Centre First.”
Christopher Wren, managing director of Wren’s said: “I believe independent shops like ours are vitally important as we offer outstanding customer service and best quality meat at value-for-money prices.
“The disastrous effect on town centres is evident from other places where supermarkets have opened on the edge of town, leading to loss of business and shop closures.”
Thame Needs Tesco, which was set up earlier this momth, has organised an e-petition on South Oxfordshire District Council’s website supporting the Tesco plans.
The group argues that the proposal will bring many benefits to the town including:
> “A new Tesco offering choice, competition and value for money shopping
> Encouraging local people to shop in Thame, rather than nearby towns
> 200 new jobs creating much-needed employment opportunities in the area
> Maintaining business use and valuable employment on the site
> Better pedestrian, cycle and bus links with other parts of Thame”
The group says that ‘with half of all food shopping done outside of the town it is abundantly clear that Thame needs a new supermarket’.
“Previous attempts by Tesco and Sainsbury’s have failed, so we call on the council to recognise the need and support this application by granting planning permission.”
So far 36 people have signed the e-petition.