Tesco, the UK's largest retailer, has been forced to abandon plans to build a superstore in the Devon town of Torrington
following a campaign to block the development by local residents and businesses. The retailer had applied to build a store on a local playing field, causing concerns that it would damage the vitality of the town centre. On Thursday, Torridge District Council's planning committee voted by 13-1 to give the green light to a rival proposal by Somerfield for a smaller development.
Local resident Michael Street said: "Tesco's turkey has been well and truly stuffed. The war with Tesco has been won by people power and common sense."
Planning officers said that although Tesco had reduced its proposal's size from 4,406 sq m to 2,654 sq m, it was still felt the store would "adversely affect the vitality and viability of the town centre". Somerfield's 1,115 sq m store will be situated in a nearby former industrial yard.
A Tesco spokesman said that the retailer was disappointed at the decision. "We are considering our options [about whether to appeal]. We believe that the store would benefit local people," he said, adding that Tesco's own research showed that "the majority of people were in favour of the store".
Local controversy was heightened by the proposed location of Tesco's store on a football pitch, swimming pool and children's play area called Vicarage Field. Residents were upset that Torridge District Council, which owns the land, would also make the decision on whether the development went ahead or not. Geoffrey Cox, the local Conservative MP, wrote to Ruth Kelly, the local government minister, alleging a conflict of interest and demanding a full public inquiry.