PROTESTERS fearing that the arrival of a Tesco could turn Sherborne into a “ghost town” marched through the streets on Tuesday.
More than 200 people congregated on Cheap Street with anti-Tesco placards and banners, before walking to a public consultation in the Digby Hall, Hound Street.
Around 20 businesses also boarded up windows, displayed posters, switched off lights and even closed for a short period in solidarity with the protest.
Peter Neal, chairman of the Keep Sherborne Viable group, the umbrella title for all anti-Tesco parties, said: “This is what it could be like – a ghost town.”
He added: “It’s great lots of the townspeople and traders turned out expressing great concern.”
Sally-Ann Kodurand, chairman of Sherborne Chamber of Trade, said: “It’s a scary picture seeing the shops closed and empty. It doesn’t bare thinking about if this is the future for Sherborne.”
Broadcasting legend Valerie Singleton took part in the march. She said: “What we need is a hotel, otherwise there is nowhere for people to stay when they visit. I love Sherborne and shopping here.”
Robin Hague, owner of Robin James Hair Salon, was accompanied by 12 of his staff at the protest.
He said: “The addition of a supermarket won’t directly affect my business, I’m thinking about the town.”
Mr Hague, who has traded for more than 20 years in Sherborne, believes the loss of a hotel could affect the town’s tourism trade.
He said: “We have 40,000 visitors a year and many are drawn by the diverse range of shops and other businesses.
“It is the heart and soul of the town and forms the very fabric of Sherborne. If that is affected it will have a knock on affect on everything else.
“We are happy to embrace change but I would love to see one example of an out of town supermarket that has benefited a high street. ”
Representatives from the retail giant discussed the plans for the Sherborne Hotel site, on the A30, with residents and invited them to vote for their favourite design and submit comments at the consultation.
Former Sherborne gift shop owner Edward Brown, of Westbury, said the event was a fiasco. “There was hardly anyone to speak to and when we did get someone, they couldn’t answer our questions. There was no formal presentation. I do not agree with the plans.”
Western Gazette reader Fiona Butler did not attend the consultation but supports the plans.
She said: “I think a Tesco in Sherborne would be great. It will have job opportunities and I believe if people no longer go to Yeovil for the weekly shop, they are more likely to use the other shops in Sherborne.”
Melanie Chiswell, corporate affairs manager for Tesco, spoke to residents at the consultation. She said: “I’m really pleased so many people have taken an interest in the plans and have taken the time to offer their comments.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion and not everyone supports the proposals.”