£10k parish poll over Brixham Tesco plan 'selfish waste of time and money'
A £10,000 PARISH poll on whether Brixham wants a Tesco development has been branded a 'waste of time and money'.
The referendum, to be paid for by taxpayers in the port, will ask residents in the Brixham parish wards of Berry Head with Furzeham and St Mary's with Summercombe a single question — are they in favour of any Tesco town centre supermarket scheme or not?
But town councillor Chris Lomas said spending tax payers' money on the poll was 'a selfish waste of time and money'.
And another couple have claimed the poll does not stand up in law.
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Cllr Lomas attacked the Brixham Residents Against Tesco Supermarket protest group, saying: "If the people from BRATS want a parish poll, why don't they pay for it?
"This is a waste of time and money. It is very selfish to use other people's money."
Torbay and Brixham councillor Mike Morey, who chaired a public parish meeting where the poll call was made, said: "Of course, we have to watch the pennies, but at least it will gauge public opinion. When a parish poll is called, we have a duty to carry it out. That's the price to pay for democracy."
The poll will take place on Thursday, March 22, between 4pm and 9pm.
Leya Ostell, of the BRATS campaigners, denied the move was a waste of cash.
She said: "It is a way of getting Torbay Council to listen to the feelings of the people of Brixham."
The public meeting was held at Brixham College to hear people's views on the Tesco plans.
No-one from the supermarket chain attended.
Kevin Atkinson, of Torbay Development Agency, told the meeting it was Tesco's national policy never to attend public meetings.
The Tesco scheme comprises a 32,000 sq ft store, 10 town houses, 7,000sq ft of apartment space and 350 parking spaces.
Mr Atkinson told the meeting: "Torbay Council and the TDA have conveyed their concerns to Tesco representatives about the design and told them we would not be able to recommend their proposal for approval in its present form.
"Tesco were asked to come back with a more sympathetic approach to their design.
"They have confirmed they will have a rethink."
The heated meeting was attended by more than 200 people.
Julie Richardson, from BRATS, said the group had collected 1,000 signatures against the development.
She claimed: "The supermarket will cause considerable harm to the vitality of the local economy."
She added: "It will cause a massive disturbance in the town for traders especially during the 18 months it takes to build the store."
Resident Peter Kinnick said: "Most people already turn their back on the town and do their shopping in out of town supermarkets.
"If Tesco comes, people will stay in town and spend their money here."
Trader Keith Williams said the idea of a supermarket in the town was largely supported by people but not the scheme proposed by Tesco.
However, fellow trader Paul Brady said the disturbance caused during the construction period would hit businesses.
A spokesman for Albourne Property, which is working with Tesco on the scheme, said neither company had been invited to the public meeting.
He added: "We remain committed to the regeneration of this important town centre scheme.
"We are currently reviewing elements of the external design, taking on board relevant feedback received as a result of the exhibition, with a view to submitting a planning application at the end of spring."
Brixham lawyers Michael and Sue Furminger, claim the poll does not comply with the Local Government Act 1972.
The couple, who attended the public meeting, have written to the town council claiming there is the possibility of a judicial review.
Mr Furminger said: "When essential local government services are being cut this is no time to be spending council tax payers' money on a vote that won't decide anything."
A spokeswoman for Brixham Town Council said everything had been done above board.
She added: "The town council has no power or veto over a parish poll when called for, nor over the question. The town council does not carry out the poll and the chairman of either the town council or the parish meeting has no power in law to prevent 10 electors from calling a poll."
A Torbay Council spokesman said: "A poll has been called for in accordance with legislation.
"The poll is run by Torbay Council but the cost is paid for by Brixham Town Council.
"The poll is advisory only and its result is not binding on the council."