VALE leader Matthew Barber is seeking a meeting with Tesco bosses to find out their long-term plans for Abingdon.

The Fitzharris Arms in Thornhill Walk closed last December and reopened as a Tesco Express in June, and The Ox in Oxford Road closed in March and is due to open as a Tesco Express store in two months’ time.

The supermarket giant last week applied for consent to change the shopfront and erect signs, but a change of use is not needed to turn a pub into a shop.

Abingdon Chamber of Commerce, Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood, Vale of White Horse District Council leader Mr Barber, and Abingdon Town Council leader Sandy Lovatt met last Friday to discuss the move.

Following the meeting, Mr Barber, pictured, said he would try to find out what Tesco’s intentions were, and whether it has plans for further stores in the town.

“The consultation between Tesco and residents was not good when it decided to open in Thornhill Walk, and in Oxford Road, and we would like that to improve in future.

“Tesco employ lots of people in the town and I am a fan of letting the free market operate,” he said. “However, I would like to develop a relationship with Tesco where we are working with the company rather than them coming in and taking the local community by surprise.”

Mr Barber added: “The issue really is the loss of a pub and the automatic conversion without any sort of control.

“A change that would give local authorities some control over this sort of change of use would be welcome.”

The store in The Ox, pictured, will be the third Tesco store in the town and people have concerns over the firm’s presence in the town.

Abingdon Chamber of Commerce president Paul Town-send said: “We are going to have three Tescos in Abingdon and our biggest concern is it will draw trade away from the town and start affecting businesses here.

“We know it is too late for The Fitzharris Arms and The Ox but what happens if another pub closes in Abingdon?”

Simon Petar, regional corporate affairs manager, said Tesco had sent letters to ward councillors inviting them to get in touch.

“Our Express stores are extremely popular with customers, helping them to shop locally.

“We hope to open the new store on the old Ox Inn site in early 2012 and are proud that the store will create approximately 20 new full and part-time jobs for local people.”