The retailer is promising it would deliver £25m investment to the area’s economy.
The plans to build the superstore in Scarborough were mooted four years ago and have divided the town since then.
They were given the go-ahead by councillors last December but now more than 6,000 objectors are trying to throw a spanner in the works by protesting against a road closure which is a crucial part of the development.
Yesterday a public inquiry into the flood of objections to partly closing Trafalgar Street West opened yesterday at Scarborough Spa got under way, with protestors from the Scarborough Town Against Tesco Store (STATS) group arguing the existing Tesco store at Westwood is “perfectly adequate” and shoppers also have the choice of an extended Sainsbury’s superstore, Morrison’s on the edge of town, Aldi on Northway and the local Proudfoot chain.
The Department of Transport originally received 6,395 objections to the partial road closure to serve the development on the former St Mary’s Hospital site and council depot on Dean Road.
After Tesco wrote to all the protesters, 391 were withdrawn, but the 6,018 remaining were enough to trigger the public inquiry.
Megan Thomas, for STATS, said some objected to the proposed store and some did not but all agreed that the changes to Trafalgar Street West would make things worse rather than better for 3,000 road users who travelled through it every day.
Many would have to divert to Columbus Ravine, already used by 11,400 vehicles every 24 hours in summer.
She argued the road network was already very busy and Columbus Ravine could not cope with the extra flows if Trafalgar Street West was not fully open.
She told the planning inspector: “The fact there is planning permission for a scheme to build over Trafalgar Street West does not prevent you from considering in as much detail as you wish the consequences for the free flow of traffic on the Scarborough town road network.”
Concerns about congestion had been raised when the scheme was granted planning consent.
“But there are also completely new issues such as the potential loss of profit for a business which becomes less accessible to its customers,” she added.
The objectors disputed claims by Tesco that the new road layout would actually speed up journey times.
She described figures prepared Tesco’s consultants who drove some of the routes as “wholly unrealistic,” adding:
“STATS members have repeated the exercise and come out with more realistic times showing on the whole that with the new scheme in place, Trafalgar Street West closed and two sets of new traffic lights on Columbus Ravine, drivers will experience a lot more delay in driving through the area.”
But Tesco’s barrister Reuben Taylor said the Columbus Ravine/Dean Road roundabout – due to be replaced by traffic lights under the scheme – was one of North Yorkshire’s worst accident blackspots.
Twelve accidents had been recorded there between January 2007 and November 2010, more than half involving cyclists.
He underlined the scheme would create 350 new jobs, and protest the existing 200 ones at Westwood. It would also attract £25m of investment to Scarborough and boost the town centre by bringing in more shoppers and improving road safety.
He added: “The local planning authority has considered the proposals not once but twice and considered them entirely acceptable.”
The hearing chaired by planning inspector Ian Jenkins is expected to last four days. Mr Jenkins will then prepare a report for Government Ministers.