Waitrose has found itself in the firing line of local opposition after residents of a Buckinghamshire town turned out in their thousands to officially vote against a planned store development in their area.

Some 2,073 Marlow residents took a stand against Waitrose's plans to demolish and rebuild its 30-year-old store in the town, voting against the plan in a public referendum. Just 138 people voted in favour of Waitrose seeking a compulsory purchase order on a local fune­ral service so that it could extend its store from 12,700sq ft to 24,542sq ft.

Part of the funeral ser­vice's building would be bulldozed if the plans are approved by Wycombe District Council, but campaigners hope this vote would prove at any resulting public inquiry that it is not in the public interest.

Mike Post, a member of local society Marlow Group, said it was a pre-emptive strike. "There's little doubt that this isn't in the public interest - they basically want to excavate and dump a big hanger in our town."

A spokesman at Wycombe District Council said parish polls were rare but were not legally binding on the council. He said: "We have not made a decision on the application; neither has the council received a formal request from the developer for a compulsory purchase order to be made."

Waitrose initially made an application two years ago, which was refused, but a spokeswoman for the supermarket said a council report had found that an enlarged Waitrose food shop would meet the needs of local people who travelled out of town to shop. She said Waitrose had not requested a CPO and that the new shop would provide increased choice and improved local shopping.

Although the previous application was refused in 2005, the Wycombe DC Development Control Committee considered many aspects acceptable. Waitrose studied the recommendations, and addressed each point raised, in its second application.