Fury over Tesco’s pub plan

The Alexandra Arms, Whelley
The Alexandra Arms, Whelley
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ANOTHER Wigan pub is to become a supermarket.

After a cat and mouse game with residents and press, high street giant Tesco have finally admitted that they are the retailers behind a scheme to transform the Alexandra Arms pub in Whelley.

They now hope the site - named after the famed former colliery which once stood opposite - could re-open as one the latest of more than 1,285 Tesco Express stores across Britain by mid-summer 2012.

The news immediately sparked a row with Wigan’s deputy chairman of planning Coun John Hilton who vowed to fight it “tooth and nail” because it is directly opposite the entrance to Canon Sharples Primary School.

He accused Tesco of “Trojan horse tactics” to get stores without applying for retail planning permission.

But Tesco insisted that they were saving a closed-pub site from falling into further dereliction while providing a “popular” shopping amenity.

Their corporate affairs spokesman Matthew Magee said: “This investment is a sign of our confidence and belief in Whelley.

“It will mean that a pub that has been closed for three years and a site that was facing an uncertain future will not become the type of eyesore on their doorsteps which many residents feared.

“It is a great location for a small supermarket and the integral car park means that there will be no traffic issues whatsoever while the store will bring a boost to the local economy by employing at least 20 people.”

Coun Hilton, a school governor at Canon Sharples, said that he is prepared to ‘fetter his discretion’ by speaking out about the scheme in advance of the planning committee meeting.

He claimed that the scheme would keep parents of pupils “awake at night” with worry.

He said that it appeared that the pub company had applied for planning permission and then Tescos had “come in on the back” of the scheme.

Coun Hilton warned that under the planning laws they don’t need a ‘change of use’ application to re-open the building as a supermarket, but they do need permission if they have to alter the building “significantly”.

He said: “This is a classic Trojan horse.

“Surely this is one of the worst places possible that you could place a Tesco Express because fundamentally their business plan is to attract quick passing trade from motorists who maybe have just remembered that they have forgotten something from their main shop, so you are going to get a constant stream of vehicles moving in and out directly in front of the entrance to a primary school.

“It is also a highways problem because the entrance any customers would use if they get away with this is on a blind bend and falling gradient on both sides.

“It wasn’t so long ago that this was made a ‘Safe Route to School’ by the education department with a dedicated lollipop crossing.

He added that he didn’t believe that Tesco had behaved “open and honestly” with the community.