The little East Yorkshire village of Mappleton, 3km south of Hornsea, had been subject to intense erosion at a rate of two metres a year, resulting in the access road being only 50m from the cliff edge at its closest point, until it was halted by the erection of sea defences.

Now Tesco has opened up causing further erosion to local businesses. "It’s finished the town," says Graham Burton, who runs Maple Garage. "You can park outside the bank now!"

His big 24-hour site, which has been there nearly 50 years and still offers an attended service, usually draws custom from surrounding villages it needs to, as it is "in the sticks" as Graham puts it, with only 50 houses in Mappleton itself.

"We’ve been checking litreage and we are down 34,000 litres in less than two and a bit months."

His rates have taken off in the opposite direction so he was interested in my April column which featured chartered surveyor firm Autohouse Group which offers free advice on fighting rates. Director Chris Brown had explained about how to appeal on an MCC (material change of circumstances) basis which can occur when a Tesco opens nearby. Graham, on the basis that ’every little helps’, is hoping to appeal.

I also offered him another ratings expert, Ken Batty, in Preston, Lancs (01772 558333) as I like to give a choice where possible.

Both Autohouse and Ken Batty were recently listed among the top 150 firms of rating appeal surveyors by the independent Leaseholders Association and both are members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

In addition both firms, and the RICS, are keen to rid this market of the cowboys which are unfortunately there in abundance.

Never fall for the cold call or the ’no charges to pay until an appeal has been accepted’ ploy. All appeals are accepted.

Getting the cold shoulder

Sometimes it takes a bit of perseverance. I often tell callers that I can influence suppliers who rate this magazine as important to their image, so they care if we report on them particularly if it ain’t good news.

Of course, if it’s British Gas or Barclays Bank, they won’t care (even though they should).

So, when it comes to commercial refrigeration companies, retailers are absolute tops along with their trade mags. I was therefore a bit surprised when Mohammad Nabi, who runs Mayland Garage at Mayland on Sea in Essex, rang me for the second time.

A bit of history is required here. He first rang me last September to complain that the cooler deal he had invested in back in April 2011, which promised 11 free cases of Stella to go with the drinks cooler, hadn’t panned out. No free stock. He kept ringing and they kept saying, yep, in a couple of weeks.

When I contacted the cooler company on Mohammad’s behalf last September, they put their hands up and said there had been a problem with the Stella stock. But it would be rectified in a couple of weeks. I don’t know what happened and neither does the refrigeration company but it never got there.

Mo rang me again a couple of weeks ago. Still no stock and it’s now been a year! That’s a marathon in anyone’s books.

So I got in touch again and, to be fair, the company was dismayed and made further promises. Stock to be delivered forthwith. Will let you know if it isn’t.

Home, James

This was on the front page of the Sunday Times on April 1but it wasn’t an April Fool. Scientists at Oxford University are applying for government approval to put the first driver-less car on British roads. The modified BAE Wildcat jeep will use cameras and lasers to calculate its location. Would this wipe out road rage? Drive-offs?

Given that the story appeared just as the panicking queues at the pumps were subsiding just added to the surreal nature of the week. This saw people filling milk bottles and jam jars with petrol (even the jerry cans had sold out) and even following tanker drivers for miles and in general adding four star fuel to the idea that ’we’re all in it together’ if only in the bonkers stakes. Back to the driver-less car scientists are hoping for approval to be allowed on the open road within a couple of months.

Google has been testing its driverless system in the state of Nevada where I’m sure the deserted terrain provides less scope for crashes than, say, Oxford.

But it’s been described as ’cruise control on steroids’ and is said to be accident proof.

The American dream

Does anyone remember my story from a year ago about Don Sammons who ran a one-man band in a one-horse town in Burford, Wyoming? The now 61-year old was the single resident, running a gas station and convenience store 8,000ft up a mountain. He wasn’t lonely as he got 1,000 visitors a day.

Sort of sorry to report that Don is retiring and a Vietnamese man has bought the entire ’town’ including petrol station, c-store, three-bedroom house, old school house, cabin and barn for £560,000 during an 11-minute worldwide internet auction.

The anonymous buyer said it was his dream to own a bit of America.

Wonder whether he is going to run it himself or is on the look-out for a station/store manager.

If I find out I’ll let you know in case you want to apply for the job.