SCORES of residents unexpectedly turned up at a meeting between Tesco and Royal Wootton Bassett Town Council.
On Thursday night the Civic Centre in Station Road was packed with people trying to find out about the retail giant’s proposals for a development on Marsh Farm.
Although an application has yet to be submitted to Wiltshire Council, Tesco and developer Kemp and Kemp have expressed an interest in building 300 homes, a supermarket and other community facilities at the site to the west of the Marsh Farm Hotel, surrounding the proposed new sports hub.
Royal Wootton Bassett Town councillor Chris Wannell said: “We hosted a consultation. It wasn’t a planning application and there were about 120 angry people there.
“I have had more difficult meetings than that, and we have to keep a firm hand on it, but there were some good points made.”
Tesco had not brought many plans nor prepared to answer questions from the public, because it was expecting to meet solely with the town council.
Sophie Akokhia, Tesco’s regional corporate affairs manager, said at the beginning of the meeting: “We had planned to have a meeting with the town council and had not planned for this to be open to the public.
“There will be a two-day public exhibition at a later date where members of the public will be able to view the proposals.
“We will be able to answer questions more fully, and Tesco representatives, highway consultants and architects will be there.
“We are happy to field questions but we may not be able to answer all of them at this time.”
But because all meetings of the town council are open to the public, many residents were aware it was taking place and decided to attend.
Chris said: “I wasn’t impressed when they said they had come for a meeting with just the town council.
“I think it was trying to make it seem like the council is cosying up with them. The council would never cosy up to developers and all our meetings are public and in conjunction with the law.”
Although the site comes under the jurisdiction of Lydiard Tregoze, the proposals have raised concerns in Royal Wootton Bassett because of the effect the supermarket would have on the high street and the impact the number of new homes would have on existing infrastructure, including roads already clogged during rush hour.
Questions from the public included whether there will be something done about the already over-subscribed GP surgery, while others queried the need for the store, new homes and new community facilities in the town at all.
Chris said: “My personal view is I don’t want it. I don’t think it will be good for Wootton Bassett.
“I think they tried to put their own spin on it.
“If you look on the core strategy map you can see the only area marked out for retail is on the high street.
“I think people are concerned about the impact it could have on the high street.”
As well as a supermarket, which would be slightly bigger than the Sainsbury’s store in Boroughfields, Kemp and Kemp is proposing to build 300 homes including a quota of affordable housing and some homes for older people.
The proposals also include landscaped open spaces and play areas for children, with part of the site set aside for community facilities.
To see the core strategy map, visit www.wiltshire.gov.uk/ wcsmods-royal-wootton-bassett-inset-updated.pdf