"Bollocks!" someone shouted, when Peter Yates, the planning manager finished his report to the committee, recommending they refuse the application because of the severe negative impact on the town.

Councillors and speakers were cheered and jeered, applauded and booed. When Sebastian Tibenham, representing developers Ainscough Strategic Land, told the committee the majority of people in Shipston want a supermarket, a sea of yellow "Just say No" signs were held up behind him by anti-supermarket campaigners.

The pro-supermarket supporters made their presence felt too, but the committee rejected the application on planning grounds, rather than any perceived support for or against it.

Cllr Roger Wright said: “If we approve this it will sound the death knoll overnight to the businesses in the town.”

Cllr Chris Spencer pointed out the developers initial plan did not include a supermarket, just housing. “This causes me to think this is just to get residential on a greenfield site that would not otherwise be possible,” he said.

Cllrs Peter Barnes and Stephen Kittendorf said they could not support the plan because of the ludicrous proposal to put extra-care housing for elderly people up a hill, 750 metres away from town.

Chairman Simon Jackson, after having to tell several members of the crowd to be quiet throughout the night, described it as "the most significant application and the most controversial one this committee have had to deal with.”

When it became apparent the plan was getting rejected, one member of the audience shouted out to Cllr Gillian Roache: "You don't even live in Shipston! None of you do."

But there was an ominous parting note from Jeff Kenner, the ferociously pro-supermarket Labour district councillor for Shipston. Smugly, he predicted: "If you reject it, it will be upheld on appeal."

Read next week's Herald for a full report and the latest on whether Ainscough will appeal.

A pro-supermarket sign left behind after its owner went home disappointed