Tesco Express store opens in Bilton

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RELUCTANT councillors said they felt ‘powerless’ to stop Tesco opening a new store in the heart of Bilton village.

The Tesco Express branch in Main Street opened its doors for the first time this week after members of Rugby Borough Council’s (RBC) planing committee gave approval to the finishing touches it needed to complete the shop.

Speaking at the planning meeting on Wednesday last week, Cllr Peter Butlin (Con, Admirals) said: “It’s times like this that, as a councillor, I feel powerless.”

Tesco did not need to apply for full planning approval to be able to open the shop because the unit which it has moved into - formerly a tool hire shop - already had permission for retail use. It did however need approval to install a new shop front, equipment and cash machine, make alterations to the building and display an illuminated sign.

Cllr Butlin added: “In pure planning terms there is nothing we can do about it. I feel very frustrated.

“It’s a state of irony that Tesco said it would work with the community. It’s laughable. It has been obstructive all through this process and a general nuisance in terms of moving into that place.”

Cllr Lisa Parker (Con, Bilton) added: “Our hands are completely tied. It’s incredibly frustrating for all the councillors in that area. We feel completely powerless.”

Concerns were raised at the meeting about a lack of car parking spaces at the store, the danger of people pulling up quickly to use the cash machine and the noise and nuisance that deliveries would cause.

However the councillors all agreed that in planning terms they couldn’t refuse the applications and each one was approved.

After the meeting Cllr David Wright (Con, Bilton) who has been campaigning against the store, said: “I’m disappointed but not surprised. I know their hands were tied in terms of planning permission.”

To mark the opening of the store, Tesco invited youngsters from Bilton Infant School to be the guests of honour. The children cut the ribbon to declare it officially open for business.

Store manager Daniel Raines and his staff presented the pupils with a cheque for £500 as part of their launch celebrations.

Mr Raines said: “We are so pleased that some of the pupils came to launch the new store, and join in the celebrations with us. My staff and I are really enjoying welcoming our customers into the new store and we hope that Tesco will become a key part of the local community.”

Georgia Chadwick, chairman of the school PTA, said the donation would go towards a new wooden play area for the children.