RETAIL guru Mary Portas was one of hundreds to view public plans for a Tesco store in Sherborne this week.
More than 200 people attended the display within the first hour of a consultation opening at the West End Hall, Littlefield, on Friday afternoon.
On Saturday the broadcaster and retail expert spoke to Tesco officials when she visited the exhibition.
Sherborne resident Diana Buckley met Ms Portas at the event.
She said: “Mary Portas told them the plan was dreadful. She said they were ruining town centres and they were bulldozing their way through them. She said they weren’t listening to people’s opinions or any comments she’d previously raised.
“She said that plans like this would affect the future of our children who would not have a chance to experience a high street or the social side of visiting a town centre.
“She was very passionate about the topic and I agreed with her.”
On Sunday a message was posted to the No Thanks Tesco campaign Twitter feed reading: “It was great that Mary Portas visited the Tesco exhibition and chatted to campaigners in Cheap Street – lovely support.”
Representatives from the retail giant discussed the plans with residents and town councillors and invited them to vote for their favourite design, and submit comments. The company proposes to submit a planning application for a store at the site of the Sherborne Hotel, on the A30. It says the store could offer 200 full and part time jobs, 262 free three-hour parking spaces, and will sell food, and everyday essentials including a small range of toiletries, health and beauty goods, baby products and pet food.
It will be less than half the size of the Yeovil store, and nearly 25 per cent larger than Sainsbury’s.
Tesco proposes to alter the A30 and A352 junction to create pedestrian crossings, extend the pavement and widen the road to include two lanes approaching the store.
Melanie Chiswell, corporate affairs manager for Tesco, said: “I’m really pleased with the number of people who have attended the events.
“We have listened to their feedback. It has been a real mixture of opinion.”
Peter Neal, chairman of Keep Sherborne Viable, the umbrella title for all anti-Tesco parties, said he believed their own exit poll conducted at the consultation showed an “overwhelming rejection” of the plans.
Anti-Tesco petitions have now reached 8,500 signatures.
Meanwhile members of the Sherborne Tourism Forum have supported a motion opposing the development.
Chairman Roger Johnson said: “Nearly one third of Sherborne’s economy is derived from visitors. Anything which detracts from the vibrancy of the town centre and the appeal created by independent shops will inevitably damage the town’s attraction.
“We face a double hit if the existing Sherborne Hotel site is not safeguarded for hotel use. If we cannot accommodate the existing number of visitors, let alone any future growth, then business in the town will inevitably suffer.
“The tourism forum members intend to oppose any proposed change of purpose for this site as robustly as possible.”
The consultation continues on Tuesday between 2.30pm and 7.30pm, at the Digby Hall, Hound Street.