Pro-Sainsbury’s group says it is winning battle

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A GROUP which is supporting plans to bring a Sainsbury’s superstore to Bishop’s Waltham has now handed in more than 5,000 letters to the council.

Residents across the town have been split over the plans to build a supermarket on the old Abbey Mill site.

In August last year, a 4,500 signature petition was handed in to Winchester City Council objecting to the supermarket giant’s proposals.

But now, Bishop’s Waltham Another View has handed in more than 5,000 letters showing support for the plans.

A date now has been set for Winchester City Council to make a final decision whether the supermarket will be allowed to go ahead.

As part of the plans, the doctors’ surgery in the town, which is over-subscribed with patients, would be relocated to the site of the new supermarket.

Around half the letters of support have come from patients at the surgery who want to have the use of the new facilities.

Peter Watson, chairman of Bishop’s Waltham Another View (BWAV), said: ‘It’s been an overwhelming response really.

‘It’s beyond all of our wildest dreams.

‘It’s really good because I believe it’s getting the message out that there is a silent majority out there.

‘We hope this is a wake- up call to the councillors.’

Mr Watson said many people felt frightened to come forward and show support for the plans.

‘I feel there has been quite a lot of intimidation,’ he said.

‘There have been stories of people getting the odd tongue lashing in the High Street when they said they were in favour.

‘At the end of the day it’s just an opinion.

‘The silent majority has been fairly frightened to speak out.’

But Tony Kippenberger, chairman of Bishop’s Waltham Action Group, which opposes the supermarket plan, said the group was ready to fight back.

He said it an additional 2,100 letters objecting to the plan. He also denied that anyone in the group had acted in an intimidating way towards others.

‘Our view is that they (BWAV) currently don’t have the majority that they think they have,’ he said.

‘I have absolutely never had any complaints at all about that sort of intimidation.

‘We have told all our supporters that it’s not appropriate to do that, that’s the last thing we want to do. I think that’s totally false.’

Councillors will vote on the plans at a meeting at Winchester Guildhall on Thursday, April 7.