'Village people' in supermarket rooftop protest: Green campaigners are camping at an empty store to urge Sainsbury to spare a greenfield site, writes Marianne Macdonald

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The Independent Online
PROTESTERS have established an 'aerial village' on the roof of a derelict Tesco store in Yeovil, Somerset, in an attempt to stop Sainsbury building a superstore on a greenfield site near by.

The seven campaigners have braved wind and rain for the last week and say they will stay put until Sainsbury withdraws its plan to build a supermarket on part of Wyndham Hill.

South Somerset District Council gave permission for the project last November, subject to a legal agreement on landscaping and other conditions. The decision angered residents, who signed a 5,000-name petition and wrote 280 letters of objection.

The latest move has upped the stakes further. The protesters have hung banners on the Tesco rooftop to highlight their argument that it would be a more environmentally friendly site than Wyndham Hill, one of the few open spaces near the town centre.

But conditions are not pleasant in the eyrie. The diehards have been surviving on basic supplies and sheltering under two 'benders' - tents rigged out of hazel branches and tarpaulins. They have to climb down the ladder to use the public lavatories in the car park opposite.

'We couldn't go shopping so we were a bit stuck for food,' said Scott Rowson, 24, who is unemployed. 'We've been living on porridge made out of water.'

They are encouraging supporters to write to them care of 'The Aerial Village, The Roof Top, Old Tesco Building, Middle Street, Yeovil', and claim the postman has agreed to climb their ladder to deliver any mail.

Their chances of success appear slim, as the council supports Sainsbury's plan partly because it enables a proposed bypass to go ahead with the help of funding from the supermarket chain.

A Sainsbury spokeswoman said that the project, due for completion in 1995, would encourage rejuvenation of the east end of Yeovil and had the support of the local Chamber of Commerce. The suggestion that the chain could use the old Tesco building was not appropriate, she added. 'Sainsbury's is happy, wherever possible, to use already developed sites, but in this particular instance it is not.'

(Photograph omitted)