THOUSANDS of signatures have been added to two petitions opposing plans to convert a pub into a convenience store.

Campaigners have been rallying support against plans, submitted by Tesco, to turn the Golden Harp, in Furze Platt Road, Maidenhead, into a Tesco Express store, since December. Two petitions, containing 4,000 signatures, were submitted to councillor Hari Dev Sharma on Thursday last week and were due to be presented to the Royal Borough at a full council meeting last night.

Petitioners also staged a protest at the meeting and Mark Newcombe, lead petitioner and chairman of the Furze Platt Action Group, told The Midweek: "I have been surprised by the amount of anger about it.

"I don't think a lot of people signed it as they were drinkers at the Golden Harp, but more in opposition to the way Tesco go about their business in taking over pubs."

Permission to change the use of a pub into a shop is not required in planning law. Tesco has submitted six planning applications to the Royal Borough for exterior and interior amendments. The plans are due to go before Maidenhead Urban Development Control panel on Wednesday, March 13, where the action group can present their case.

Mr Newcombe added: "Currently, we hope to get the planning application rejected. They will appeal, but that buys us time to look elsewhere such as at the community right to buy scheme."

Cllr Sharma said: "Myself and the other two councillors in the Furze Platt ward have been against this since day one. It will damage small businesses in the area and will cause traffic problems."

A Tesco spokesman said: "Our Express stores are extremely popular with customers and communities. When an Express convenience store is opened, it provides a lift for the rest of the area as more people come out shop, which is a big opportunity for all other independent shops'"

In the long-term, the action group aims to close the planning law loophole by appealing to councillors and MPs.

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