A David and Goliath fight between a big supermarket chain and a small independent chemist is raging in Moreton.

Budgens are applying to NHS England for the go-ahead to open a pharmacy in its store, but if it gets permission it could put the future of independent chemist, A.D Byers, in jeopardy.

Now Byers pharmacist, Imran Waraich has launched a petition against the plans, and in one week has received 700 signatures. Townsfolk have only got until September 2 to make their views known to NHS England and Mr Waraich is calling on as many townsfolk and those living in surrounding villages to join his fight.

He said: “This business has been in the town for about 100 years. If Budgens’ plans get the go-ahead we would have to reduce the services we currently provide, cut staff hours and reduce opening times.” He explained that about 70% of the shop’s income comes from NHS England’s dispensing fund so the shop’s viability is under threat. He added: “Given the size of the local economy and the availability of NHS services in other towns AD Byers pharmacy believes that there is not sufficient demand to support two local pharmacy businesses.”

Owner of the Budgens franchise in Moreton, Guy Watson, thinks differently. He said: “I think Moreton is expanding rapidly with plans for hundreds more houses in the pipeline. I think it can take more than one pharmacy.” He said he was responding to customer requests for an in-store pharmacy and commissioned an independent survey which revealed that 30% of people were travelling to pharmacies outside Moreton for their prescriptions. Mr Watson added: “We were surprised to find so many people were not using the established chemist for various reasons, the opening hours being one of them. The last thing we want to do is to harm another business.”

Mr Waraich is in talks with local doctors’ surgeries to find out what more he can do to serve the community. One step he may take is to stay open, instead of closing at lunchtimes. At present Byers opens on 364 days a year. Both shops are near each other - one on the High Street and one just off.