There are few things more amusing than seeing a very large person sitting on a very small chair, I realised last night.

This was one of the most important things I learnt during the course of the two-hour New Barnet Residents' Association meeting, in St James' Church in East Barnet Road, held to give locals the chance to get to the bottom of Tesco and Asda regeneration plans for the area.

Well, this and Tesco Are Scum - which, if not expressly stated by those present, was very much implied by the furrowed brows, hoary mutterings and occasional unrestrained heckle of "Rubbish!" (the equivalent of an armed pitch invasion at an Arsenal/Barnet cup final in the context of residents' meetings in leafy suburbia).

This is because very little information was forthcoming in terms of finding out what terrors and excitements are going to befall the poor NB town centre over the next few months. This was despite an unprecedented turn-out of some 250 New Barnetians, who arrived in swarms and had already filled up all the available seats when I arrived... along with all the tables, side-tables, desks, benches, comedy kiddie seats and standing space at the back.

I had no idea New Barnet had so many residents, and was at one point so overwhelmed by the numbers storming the gates that I became convinced people were coming in, climbing out a window by the altar and then coming back in again.

I was one of the lucky ones. Using my reporter's guile, I crowdsurfed my way to a small pew in the back and managed to tuck myself in with my pad and paper for the duration. From here I had a good clear view of Tesco corporate affairs manager James Wiggam as he bravely - if foolishly - sweated it out in the centre of the arena, fending off audience discontent with the only armory provided by his company: a battering ram of cliche and bazooka of corporate-speak.

"We're here to listen," he said. "If you want to develop the best scheme, you've got to listen. We want to hear your concerns. We are here tonight to engage with people. Because there is a strong chance that if something is successful for your needs, it will also be successful for our needs."

"Listen" and "engage" were certainly the buzzwords of the evening. If James wasn't doing one, he was trying his darndest to do the other, and when he wasn't doing either, he was talking about doing them, and when he wasn't talking about doing them, he was pretending to be thinking about doing them - and when he wasn't thinking or doing or pretending to think about or do them, he was... well, probably making a mental note never again to trap himself in a church with 250 disgruntled London townies.

You could tell when James was asked a difficult question - such as about the potential problems concerning congestion, or small businesses, or conservation, or anything else - because he would glance quickly towards the cross on the wall beside him before announcing that all would be revealed "by May".

When he had said this for the fifth or sixth time, I began to feel quite sorry for this "May" character, who I imagined working with feverish agitation in a small supermarket office, buried under a mountain of Tesco leftovers and irate regeneration inquiries - only to have her job unfairly stolen by the more languid and inefficient June a few weeks later.

But at least Tesco turned up to utter their platitudes in person. Asda didn't even bother, sending a letter in its stead, the gist of which was basically: "We don't have anything to show you, and even if we did, we wouldn't, because it's not ready yet - but when it is you'll take it, because there won't be a goddamn thing you can do about it."

Ok, so it wasn't precisely that, but there's certainly something a little shifty in Asda's reluctance to talk about what they are up to. They have owned the land at the Gasworks site for some two years now, yet claim that plans "are still at a very early stage" - which either implies that there are some very lazy officers on the Asda planning board, or that they are angling for the smallest possible amount of public consultation time in order to sneak through their proposals at the last minute.

Or it might all be perfectly innocent, of course, but it's impossible to know that while they remain silent. Which is brilliant for unfounded speculation (the journalist's best friend), though not so good for getting any further with finding out what on earth is actually going on.

For all those who were unable to attend the meeting in person, I shall sum up for you: Tesco have no plans but want to "listen" and "engage" in order to get some; Asda have no plans, want neither to listen nor engage, and may or may not get some; the residents want regeneration but oppose both Tesco and Asda, despite them not having any plans and potentially never having any; and New Barnet trustee David Howard is a legend.