A LEOMINSTER action group opposed to plans for two new superstores in the town is rejoicing after winning its “David and Goliath” battle.

Herefordshire Council’s planning committee yesterday voted against plans for a new food store on land at Southern Avenue and a Sainsbury’s on the current site of steel fabricator Dales on Mill Street.

The decision has been hailed a "victory for the small man" after months of protest by opposition group Friends of Leominster action group.

Pete Blench, a member the group, said: “It’s very much been a David and Goliath battle. We were up against huge forces. The developers and the stores themselves have massive resources – it just goes to prove that if you really exercise democratic right within the system and do legitimate lobbying of the council and do your homework, read all the retail impact assessments and get in the objections then some good can come of that.

“People can be so defeatist when they know they are up against such big and well heeled companies but we still do have a democratic system and a responsive planning system that listens to all opinions – it’s been a victory for the small man.”

But Alex Brodie, director of Morbaine Ltd, the applicant behind the proposed Southern Avenue store, says the developer is “very disappointed” with the decision and that professional advice would be taken before deciding how to move forward.

The store would also fund the relocation of Leominster company Thomas Panels and Profiles to new purpose-built premises in the Enterprise Park.

Mr Brodie said: “We’re very disappointed by the planning committee’s decision. Herefordshire Council officers have themselves stated that our proposal meets a need for new convenience shopping floorspace in Leominster, and there is no evidence that it would have any significant adverse impact on the town centre.

“We are confident there is a market in Leominster for a new convenience store of the size we propose, and we were very pleased with the level of support that we received at the vote from the six councillors who supported our proposal; this was in contrast to the unanimous decision of the planning committee to refuse the Dales site."

And Tricia Thomas, of Thomas Panels and Profiles, said the decision is "incredibly disappointing" and an opportunity missed for both the town and Thomas Panels.

Andrew MacWhirter, managing director of Dales, added that his company will be "reflecting" on the comments, the report and how best to move forward.