Campaigners are gearing up for their final battle against Scarborough’s new Tesco superstore after the Government announced it was launching a public inquiry.
It will be heard at the Spa on October 15 following a wave of objections against the supermarket giant’s plans to partially shut Trafalgar Street West.
Protesters now hope they will be able to convince the Government inspector to ditch the crucial road closure in a final attempt to halt the development.
Neil Price, vice chairman of Scarborough Town Against Tesco Store (STATS), said: “We have campaigned for this for over four years and we know this is a key issue to this development going ahead.
“We always felt this was a battle we could win, because we knew we were likely to struggle against Scarborough Council in stopping the planning consent that was given to Tesco in December 2012.
“Getting a public inquiry is an important milestone and we couldn’t have achieved this without the support of the public. The public have spoken.”
However Tesco said it wasn’t worried about the inquiry potentially harming the development.
James Wiggam, corporate affairs manager for the supermarket chain, said: “We are very proud to be offering significant investment in Scarborough and we look forward to the inquiry.
“We have no fears that it could harm the development and we are still very positive. It is one of the steps that need to be taken to make it happen and it’s important the objections are looked into properly.”
In April the campaign group presented 6,283 individually signed letters of objection to the Department of Transport.
But there were concerns that some of the names and addresses of residents had been falsified, and the Government body announced it was “looking into the matter”.
However, a spokeswoman for the department said there had been enough objections to warrant an inquiry and the probe would provide an opportunity to properly gauge public opinion.
She said: “Concerns were raised about the validity of some of the objections, but the main focus is the investigation into the actual road closure stopping-up order and whether it is necessary or if additional provisions need to be made. The public inquiry is about seeking further clarity around public opinion and listening to people’s views on this order.
“It’s a different way of going about it because obviously there were a large number of objections. Whether they are real or not, that’s not the point, it’s about making sure we are charting everyone’s views and that’s the reason the inquiry is being heard.”
The campaign group has always strongly refuted the allegations that it submitted false information.
Mr Price said: “The Department for Transport sent out some letters with my email address to people who had complained so they could contact me. Out of more than 6,000 letters of objection, I only received 14 complaints and they accepted the explanation that was given to them.
“I can honestly say many people who have followed and campaigned with us have sent letters showing our group their support. Every time we have been out in town people come up to us and say we’re doing a good job and this is something we can win.”
The inquiry will start at 10am and members of the public who wish to speak should submit a written statement to the inspector and Tesco’s agent, Mouchel Ltd, by August 30, with any supporting evidence to be forwarded by September 13.
Due to the large number of objectors, the Department for Transport will display all written statements at Scarborough Library from September 23.
Following the hearing, the inspector will submit their report and recommendations to the Secretary of State who will then make a final decision on the road closure.