COUNCILLORS sent a defiant message to Tesco by backing plans for legislation blocking the supermarket giant's conversion of a pub into a convenience store.

Royal Borough councillors almost unanimously agreed to invoke an article 4 direction over Tesco's proposals for the Golden Harp pub in Furze Platt Road, Maidenhead.

Tesco is currently free to proceed with plans without permission for a change of use, however the Article 4 direction will ensure any development has to be proposed in a planning application.

Residents have fought to prevent the pub becoming a Tesco Express, with two petitions against the proposals accruing 1,908 and 1,786 signatures respectively.

Mark Newcombe, chairman of the Furze Platt Action Group, received a rousing reception from a packed public gallery at Tuesday's council meeting, held at the Town Hall in St Ives Road, Maidenhead, when he called on councillors to side with residents.

He said: "We are against any organisation converting the Golden Harp into anything other than a pub.

"Furze Platt has a variety of shops, newsagents and a Co-op supermarket - we don't want or need another one. What we do want is our pub back."

Mr Newcombe also said a petition by the group of all houses within a 500m radius of the Golden Harp found 89% were against Tesco's plans, and that the plans would harm local businesses and put children from nearby schools in danger due to rising traffic.

While debating the issue, 11 councillors spoke out against Tesco. Cllr Lynda Yong said that Tesco 'destroys communities', while Cllr Paul Brimacombe said they operated under a strategy that 'resistance is futile'.

Cllr Tom Bursnall was the only councillor that spoke in favour of Tesco, saying: "Pub companies are not in the business of closing down successful pubs.

"It is not economically sound to keep these unprofitable, zombie-like businesses alive."

Cllr Bursnall also raised concerns that Tesco would appeal the decision and be entitled to compensation from the Royal Borough if the appeal was successful.

However, Cllr Simon Dudley, lead member for finance, said: "The Royal Borough has very broad financial shoulders.

"We have financial resources to represent the interests of our residents - it's their money, and our resources will be there to do the right thing."

Every councillor apart from Cllr Bursnall voted to recommend the Article 4 direction, which will be passed at the next Maidenhead Development Control Panel on Wednesday, May 8.