SUPERMARKET giant Tesco has surprised shopkeepers and residents after announcing it will open a third store in Abingdon.

Former pub The Ox, in Oxford Road, closed in March and work is under way to open it as a Tesco Express store.

But owner of the nearby Best-One convenience shop Sritharan Vairamuttu said he had no idea about the plans when he invested all his money in to opening the store in December.

He said: “It is not fair. There is no security for small businesses.”

His wife Rahani said: “It looks like they are trying to kill our business.We will be affected on a huge level. We cannot beat Tesco. It is a real difficult time for us.”

The couple have set up a petition against the new store and collected 100 signatures in two days.

In May, a Tesco spokesman inadvertently told the Oxford Mail it was planning another store, but would not say where.

The firm has a supermarket in Marcham Road and an Express store in the old Fitzharris Arms pub in Thornhill Walk, off Wootton Road, which opened in June.

Northcourt ward councillor Angela Lawrence said: “The shopkeepers have been doing all the work for years. Then comes Tesco and sweeps away their custom.”

Town councillor and Oxford Road resident Lesley Legge said the community would fight the move, adding: “I do not know anyone who feels Tesco is needed here.”

Residents will protest outside the pub at 2pm on Saturday.

Tesco’s corporate affairs manager Maxine Crawford said: “Local businesses can benefit from being near a Tesco Express because they often attract more shoppers.”

But John Smith, 73, of Warwick Close, said: “I object to a giant octopus like Tesco spreading its tentacles everywhere.

“It is taking over a store that is a viable operation. What is Tesco going to do except replace it?”

Abingdon Chamber of Commerce president Paul Townsend said the store would draw trade away from the town centre.

He said: “If any one company were to open up numerous stores around the town they are pretty much going to have a monopoly.”

Planning permission is not needed to convert the pub into a shop.

Owner of Budgens in Northcourt Road Sarah Lloyd said: “I find it frustrating they are able to do what they are doing.”

Pat Bryden, of the Friends of Abingdon Civic Society, said the store would create more traffic in an area which was already used a lot by school children.

Abingdon Town Council leader Sandy Lovatt said: “I am well aware of a vast number of objections, but I am equally aware of the success of the Tesco in Wootton Road.

“People like it.”