United we stand - against Tesco

Lillington and Warwick residents are joining forces to find ways they can stop two pubs in their areas becoming Tesco stores.

They will meet at the Walnut Tree in Crown Way at 7.30pm on Friday to come up with ideas to "fight" plans to build supermarkets on the site and at the Sarah Siddons on the Woodloes estate.

Both establishments are currently owned by Punch Taverns, which has been in talks with Tesco about the potential sales.

People fear the developments could damage their communities and put smaller shops out of business.

Campaigner Gary Timlin of Lillington said: "We want to let Tesco and Punch Taverns know that they have a fight on their hands and that we are not just going to roll over.

"Even if we don't succeed at least we will know we have tried."

The meeting will include regulars, shopkeepers and "people that care about their corner of the world", Mr Timlin said.

Ward councillor Alan Boad (Lib Dem, Leamington Crown), Warwick town councillor Martyn Ashford (Con, Warwick North) and Warwick and Leamington MP James Plaskitt have also been invited.

Mr Plaskitt is strongly opposed to the plans and wants to meet representatives of both companies to discuss the situation.

Coun Ashford said he would be advising the meeting on petitions and urging residents to speak to planning officers.

He added: "Our issues are identical - we can work together under the same umbrella but approach each situation from a different perspective.

"Through strength in unity we can confront Tesco on both issues."

Among ideas considered for saving the Sarah Siddons is a plan to launch a co-operative project where customers can buy shares in the business and run it as a community pub.

Coun Ashford believes this would also work in Lillington.

"The Walnut Tree has been standing since the 1950s - I don't see any reason why the idea wouldn't work."

Responding to Tesco's claims that the supermarket would not affect independent shops, a Sarah Siddons Action Group spokesman said: "

"The Tesco statement illustrated just how little they know about community retailing when suggesting that opening on the Sarah Siddons site would bring more people into the area.

"That is exactly what we don't want.

"Woodloes is a medium to high density residential estate and when designed in the late 1960s and the number of community stores was carefully planned.

"It has worked well too. Few, if any of the stores have been closed for any length of time.

"We have a good mix of shops that cover the convenience requirement adequately and give owners a sensible return for their hard labour.

"The shop owners have been there for many years and residents appreciate the friendliness and stability.

"The shops don't run the community, they are a part of the community."

More than 1,300 Lillington residents have signed a petition to oppose the plan in their area and more than 600 people have done the same in Warwick.

Tesco has said new stores will bring jobs to the areas and can benefit other business by bringing in more custom. No planning applications for either site had been made as the Courier went to press.