Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper has waded into the battle for a new Asda supermarket in Cinderford for the first time.
Campaigners took to the streets of the town for the second Saturday in a row at the weekend in a bid to show their support for the long-standing plans for Asda, which have been repeatedly blocked by rival supermarket Midcounties Co-operative.
Mr Harper, who recently quit as immigration minister after he discovered his cleaner did not have the correct visa, has written to the supermarket’s chief executive to ask why they continue to block the plans.
He said: “I am writing to the Chief Executive of Midcounties Co-operative on behalf of a number of my constituents who have contacted me about the ongoing delay of the Asda Cinderford development. I have asked the chief executive to explain why the Co-op has felt the need to block and obstruct every effort to get this much needed new supermarket for the people of Cinderford and the wider Forest area.
“With regards to Asda locating in Cinderford, I am, and have always been, supportive of my constituents getting more choice over where they are able to shop, not only to provide more choice to shoppers and keep prices down, but to also provide more local jobs.”
Mr Harper’s intervention cannot come soon enough for campaigners, who have been left frustrated by his lack of involvement thus far.
Lead campaigner Amanda Watkins said: “We have had a meeting with Mark’s PA who said that he wanted to get more involved now that he is back in the Forest and has got more time on his hands.
“Previously he kept telling us he was all for it but he could not get involved, but if he can’t get involved, then who can?
“We are hopeful that it will make a difference.
“We have been out on the streets for two Saturdays running now. We want to send a clear message. The Co-op are saying that the people of Cinderford don’t want another supermarket and we are telling them, yes they do.
“We will be keeping up the pressure.”
Co-op bosses have presented a second legal challenge to Asda’s plans, but the Government has said that it will not call it in. It will now be up to a judge to decide the fate of the challenge.
Meanwhile, campaigners are planning a third protest at the triangle this Saturday from 11am.