A PHARMACIST was forced to serve patients from outside a portable building with her foot in the door after a disgruntled competitor blocked the entrance with his car.
The bizarre chain of events unfolded after Mark Taylor, general manager of Hendra Chemists in Penryn, took drastic action to prevent Asda opening the pharmacy in its car park.
Cornwall Council turned down the supermarket's application to remove a condition barring it from having an in-store pharmacy because it would be detrimental to the town centre, as it could cause Hendra to close.
It has appealed against the refusal: but with an NHS licence from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust (PCT) due to expire on December 23, the store needed to open a pharmacy or face having to reapply.
Mr Taylor – one of many traders angry that Asda appeared to be ignoring the planning rules – decided to act by blocking the portable unit with his car, declaring: "We're doing everything we can to stop them."
He said a representative of Asda told him, and the PCT, that because the pharmacist was able to operate with her "heel in the door" it constituted being open, as the vehicle prevented them doing any more, and this meant the store could retain the licence.
"It beggars belief that they think this is acceptable," said Mr Taylor.
"It cannot be good service.
"We will be meeting with the PCT next week to get them to accept this means they were not open."
However, Bridget Sampson, director of primary care at the PCT, said: "The trust has taken legal advice and we are happy that the licence remains valid.
"The pharmacy was fully ready and able to open but was prevented from doing so by circumstances beyond its control."
Mr Taylor said Hendra Chemists now planned to take Cornwall Council to a judicial inquiry if action was not taken to close Asda's pharmacy. Cornwall Council confirmed its enforcement department was investigating a complaint but a decision had not been made at the time the West Briton went to press.
Penryn councillor Mary May said she felt ashamed at her authority's lack of action.
"I think the council is shaking in its boots and Asda are having a good laugh about it," she said. "Asda did say it was a one-off and they were trying their luck – and they seem to be winning."
Asda refused to comment officially on the claims, only saying in a statement: "Our pharmacy opened on December 23 within the terms of our contract.
"We know customers are keen to start using the service, so we have opened the pharmacy while waiting for the outcome of our planning appeal."