A PENSIONER handed in more than 50 letters of support to a planning inquiry considering the case for a new Tesco supermarket in Basingstoke.

John Kearney, of Western Way, South Ham, Basingstoke, spoke in favour of Tesco’s plan for a new 63,000 sq ft store on the former Smiths Industries site, in Winchester Road.

He handed 53 letters of support to the inquiry at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s Civic Offices, some of which he said came from residents in the Brighton Hill area.

The 75-year-old said: “It takes a lot of mileage to get up to Chineham so they just love the idea that there would be a Tesco on their doorstep.

“Also, there’s an awful lot of worry about jobs here. I do not know of any supermarket that has closed (during the recession).”

As reported in last Thursday’s Gazette, the inquiry is being held after the borough council’s development control committee went against the advice of planning officers in refusing permission for the store in July last year.

The inquiry, which started last Tuesday, also heard from Jonathan Baldock, a retail planning consultant appointed by the borough council in November 2012.

He said the committee’s refusal was correct due to the significant adverse effect the Tesco Extra store would have on Chineham Shopping Centre, which contains a Tesco store, and the Brighton Hill District Centre, which contains an Asda store.

Christopher Katkowski, representing Tesco, asked Mr Baldock if he really believed shops in Brighton Hill were dependent on a particular level of Asda’s turnover.

Mr Baldock replied: “Yes, I think you can interpret like that. If Asda loses 30 per cent of its trade for example, then you would expect the other shops to lose comparable levels of trade.”

Speaking for Asda at the inquiry, Mark Underwood, partner at Deloitte Real Estate, said it was highly unusual for the company to get involved in such a hearing.

He said: “They have taken this step because the impact (of a new Tesco) will be so significant on the store, and that of Brighton Hill District Centre.”

He said the centre was not glamorous, but was a “workaday centre which serves a vital purpose”.

He added that the proposed introduction of the Tesco store “could well push the centre over the edge”, describing the current condition of the centre as “fragile” and arguing that many people who shop in Asda then go on to use other shops in the centre.

Scott Marshall, a chartered civil engineer appointed by the borough council, criticised Tesco’s plans to redevelop the Brighton Hill Roundabout as part of a multi-million pound package linked to approval of the new store.

Tesco had planned to build a “throughabout” link, giving priority to A30 traffic, and replacing some of the roundabout’s subways with level crossings.

He said: “This proposal introduces a significant safety issue – the existing subway network has a very low accident rate, whereas the proposed (changes) increase the likelihood of a collision involving a pedestrian and a vehicle.”

The planning inquiry, which is taking place at the Civic Offices, in London Road, continues today and is due to finish at the end of the week.