Ashtead Tesco supporters tell of intimidation by opposition campaigners
NEARLY two thirds of businesses near a proposed new Tesco store support the controversial supermarket application, the Advertiser can reveal.
A survey of 74 businesses in The Street, Ashtead, found 46 supported the new store, with 12 against, nine undecided and seven declining to comment.
Many traders told the Advertiser of intimidation by local people who are opposed to the plans, though it was made clear that this was not from members of campaign group Save Ashtead's Village Environment (SAVE).
Jackie Quinn, owner of Jackie Quinn and Co estate agents, said: "One person told me I'd end up with a brick through the window if I said I supported Tesco."
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Many business owners asked to remain anonymous when surveyed. One said: "I have had clients come here and say, 'If you come out for Tesco we will boycott the shop,' which is ridiculous.
"If they focused the energy they use stopping the development into the high street it wouldn't be in the condition it currently is."
Another trader said: "A lot of people are scared to speak their mind for fear of being bullied or picked on."
Bryan Elphick, of Elphick Estate Agents, is chairman of Ashtead Village Traders. He said: "The village desperately needs the increased footfall a supermarket will bring.
"Most traders feel that, if only a few of the 6,000 people who signed the original petition actually shopped in the village, this wouldn't be a problem."
Other traders are not convinced. Roger Palmer, who owns Palmer's deli and cafe, said: "They think it is going to be a panacea for the high street but a lot of the trade they generate will be during hours when the majority of shops are closed."
John Bates, who owns Ashtead Fisheries, said: "From a business point of view, Tesco doesn't bother me at all. What I am very concerned about is the effect on parking."
The Advertiser also surveyed businesses in the village's other two shopping areas.
In Barnett Wood Lane, only one business was in favour, with nine against, four undecided and one declined to comment.
In Craddocks Parade, two were in favour, nine against, eight undecided and one declined to comment.
Responding to the Advertiser's findings, SAVE spokeswoman Gillian Russell said: "SAVE obviously totally condemns any aggressive behaviour. We respect that there are different views within Ashtead and we respect all views.
"Our overriding concern is that this proposal is only nine per cent smaller (than the previous one) and our parking analysis, based on Tesco's data, clearly shows parking and congestion would be even worse, due to the total lack of customer parking.
"We have always campaigned for a substantially smaller store with on-site parking."
A Tesco spokesman said: "We are delighted at the positive response from retailers."
If permitted, the new Tesco store would be built at 53-57, The Street.