THOUSANDS of people have written in support of a controversial new Sainsbury's store in Bishop's Waltham.
Up to 2,700 letters have been handed over to Winchester City Council in support of the plans for the Abbey Mill site, which would also include the relocation of the doctors' surgery in the town.
There are now believed to be more than 3,300 letters of support for the plans, compared to a 4,500-signature petition opposing the store.
Peter Watson, chairman of the pro-Sainsbury's group, Bishop's Waltham Another View (BWAV), said: 'We have been saying all along we feel there is a silent majority out there.
'It's all starting to come together. I am really pleasantly surprised.
'To get that commitment from that number of people is extraordinary.
'The doctors' surgery have done a mail out as well and they got a good response.
'It's quite outstanding. I can't thank my committee members enough.'
The surgery was only built for 8,000 patients but is currently dealing with 12,000 and desperately needs to relocate.
Andy Moulam, business manager for the Bishop's Waltham surgery, said: 'Our existing site at Lower Lane is constrained and Sainsbury's proposals present us with an opportunity to expand and modernise - an opportunity that may not otherwise be realised in the foreseeable future.
'We asked our patients if they could show their support for our proposals for the Abbey Mill site and we are delighted that so many of them have taken the time to do this.'
Tony Kippenberger, chairman of Bishop's Waltham Action Group, which is opposing the plans, said the Sainsbury's superstore and the doctors' surgery should be treated as separate issues.
'A lot of those letters are letters returned to the doctors' surgery.' he said.
'They wrote a letter to all their patients pleading for support for the surgery part of the application.
'I think this was highly disingenuous that they couldn't have one without the other. It suggests a lot of support for the doctors' surgery and not for Sainsbury's.
'BWAV have spent four months trying to get letters of support and they managed to get 300.'