Protesters made their point

PUBLISHED: 01:01 26 November 2008 | UPDATED: 22:40 15 June 2010

I don't know if planning inspector David Nicholson is a football follower but, if he is, I'm sure, like me, he quickly realised when the Tesco appeal inquiry began at Sidmouth that he was watching a contest between a retail organisation equivalent to Pre

I don't know if planning inspector David Nicholson is a football follower but, if he is, I'm sure, like me, he quickly realised when the Tesco appeal inquiry began at Sidmouth that he was watching a contest between a retail organisation equivalent to Premiership clubs like Chelsea or Manchester United facing Honiton's team from Division 2 of the Exeter and Devon League.The local residents sitting alongside me in East Devon District Council chamber for six days could only hope the referee, sorry inspector, would somewhere be able to include their genuine, personal worries alongside the facts and figures from those wearing the Tesco colours.For me and most of local residents in the council chamber for six days all the financial statistics, shop/store percentage sales, plus planning and legal jargon was gobbledegook. To the EDDC representatives it was, I felt, an occasional battle they have had to fight at this level before. For the men from Tesco, I can't remember whether their QC told us more than once it was the second or third largest retail organisation in the UK (or was it Europe?).When men and women who would be personally involved by this giant supermarket had their chance to put the fears about traffic problems, pollution, road safety and a threat to the livelihood of small and friendly shops, they were virtually unchallenged by the Tesco team. It appeared to me they knew our arguments counted for little or nothing in any outcome.The nearest to the townsfolk's voice - apart from EDDC - was Mr Peter Rowan, a chartered town planner, who was representing the Catholic Church, at the junction of Ottery Moor Lane/Exeter Road plus St Rita's and the Mountbatten Park and other sports areas which would be en-route to the proposed Tesco Extra.He had facts and figures to back up his concern about the dangers to younger people using the sporting land and churchgoers of all ages who would have to cross what would become very busy roads.I felt the Tesco team chose not to try "pushing him into touch" when he looked likely to score a goal for me. He knew the rules.The EDDC planning spokesman Matthew Morris clearly spelt out why the district council was opposed to the plan but, when the Tesco QC was allowed to ask him questions, my personal view was that he belittled Mr Morris. Did I hear David Elvin QC regularly rephrase his questions to Mr Morris until he got close to the answer he wanted?Mr Adrian Thomas gave EDDC's final submission and residents, like myself, hearing him felt he calmly but confidently put forward the objection to the new store.Mr Elvin offered a similar presentation for Tesco before handing over to another colleague from his seven-strong team.The "No Tesco Relocation" group must now wait until the inspector makes his decision, so whatever I write here will not reach him. I am assured, and I believe, he will give an independent verdict.As for Tesco, the company must have been very surprised by the resistance to what they believed their appeal was - a fait accompli.Whatever the outcome, the "No Tesco Relocation" group proved that if you believe in something speak up.Tony Smith Honiton


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