SUPERMARKET giant Sainsbury’s has given funding to a group which is campaigning for it to be allowed to build a store, it has emerged.
In the last few weeks an increasing number of residents in Bishop’s Waltham have come out in favour of controversial plans for Sainsbury’s to build there – a plan which has split the small town.
Supporters of the Bishop’s Waltham Action Group (BWAG), which is opposed to the plans, started putting up estate agent-style ‘Say No to Sainsbury’s’ signs in their gardens to make their feelings known.
Now pro-supermarket campaigners have started to put up their own signs bearing the words ‘Say yes’.
It has emerged that these signs, put up by members of the campaign group Bishop’s Waltham Another View (BWAV), were paid for by Sainsbury’s.
Peter Watson, chairman of BWAV, said: ‘We asked Sainsbury’s to fund some estate agent-style signs because for some length of time we had been driving around seeing signs that said ‘Say no to Sainsbury’s’ everywhere.
‘We felt the other side of the argument needed addressing. I think it puts out some balance there.
‘For quite some time before we were formed a lot of the ‘Say no to Sainsbury’s’ signs were around on the streets. At least when you drive around the area now, there are two sides to every argument.
The row centres around proposals by Sainsbury’s to build a store at the town’s old Abbey Mill site.
The plan includes moving the town’s doctors’ surgery.
BWAG members handed in a 4,500-signature petition objecting to the plans last summer. Now BWAV, in turn, has handed in more than 5,000 letters to Winchester City Council in support of the scheme,
Tony Kippenberger, chairman of BWAG, said: ‘It comes as no surprise that the big supermarkets will pour the money in.
‘Sainsbury’s will do what they need to do. The extraordinary thing is that this group wasn’t even formed until after the official consultation period was over.
‘I don’t know why this has dragged on as long as it has.
’I can only assume that Sainsbury’s are dragging it on for as long as they can so they can get 5,000 letters. It’s served them well that it’s been delayed.’
Councillors are set to make a decision on the plans in April.