UPDATE: Horners deny their land is part of proposed supermarket site on Midland Road, North Walsham
PUBLISHED: 07:00 02 February 2012 | UPDATED: 12:30 03 February 2012
© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2012
A major Midland Road, North Walsham, landowner has categorically denied that his site is among those which developers want for another supermarket.
Nigel Horner-Glister says any redevelopment of the area will not include the Horners former auction site and buildings.
“I have made a clear refusal of the developers’ offer. Any impression given that the development may include my site is detrimental to the business of myself and my tenant who is working hard to build up the antiques centre as a thriving business and an asset to the town,” said Mr Horner-Glister in a statement to the EDP and its sister paper the North Norfolk News.
The centre is now occupied by Mike Jones’ Timeline Antiques business.
Two firms, Petros and Hartfield Developments, want to build a store on Midland Road - for a so far unnamed retailer - which is as big or slightly bigger than the town’s Sainsbury’s, creating up to 200 local jobs.
The would-be Midland Road developers will not disclose their supermarket’s identity saying: “We are in serious discussions with a major retailer: negotiations are nearly concluded and we will make an announcement as soon as possible.”
They are stressing that their development would be nearer the town centre than the Waitrose proposed for the former Focus DIY store on Cromer Road.
This week’s announcement took North Norfolk District Council officers and councillors completely by surprise.
Cabinet member Trevor Ivory said no-one at the council had any idea of the scheme until they were contacted on Monday.
"This isn’t about a ‘battle of the brands’ – it’s about getting investment in the right location to boost the town centre"
A message left on his phone by one of the firms involved had made it quite clear that the developers had been “flushed out” by Waitrose’s plans, and forced into an earlier declaration than originally envisaged, said Mr Ivory.
He added: “It’s no secret that Tesco is looking for a site in the town - but that’s entirely speculative on my part.”
Town mayor and district councillor Vivienne Uprichard, said if Waitrose got the planning go-ahead, she did not think the town would need another supermarket as it already had Sainsbury and Lidl.
She added: “It’s like buses - you manage for all these years with what you’ve got and then all of a sudden two come along at once.”
A spokesman for the developers would not identify the precise site in Midland Road.
She said: “The lands are opposite the railway yard and include various ownerships. Petros/Hartfield have been in dialogue with owners for some time and full details will be revealed shortly.”
They hoped to hold a public exhibition in the next couple of months, with a planning application to follow shortly after.
If Waitrose got the go-ahead, the developers would have to decide whether or not to press on with their proposals.
She added: “The reason we are going public now is to make the council and local community aware there is a scheme nearer the town centre where we believe there will be significantly more benefit to what is presently a struggling town centre. We would hope that the local authority will ensure that our proposals and those of Waitrose can be considered at the same time and judged on their proper merits.
“This isn’t about a ‘battle of the brands’ – it’s about getting investment in the right location to boost the town centre.”
Midland Road is categorised in the council’s planning strategy document, the Local Development Framework, as land for industrial use.
Mr Ivory said another consideration would be the conditions of the exclusion zone which had now been placed around the nearby gas condensate tank, beside the railway station.
The developers say their scheme would regenerate a major, highly-visible site and help retain shopping trade in the town presently lost to places including Cromer and Norwich.
David Collins, from Petros, said: “We see this as a great way to invest in North Walsham, improve links to the town centre, and set up a new town centre initiative with funding for further improvement.
“We feel the proximity of this site to the town centre offers a one-off opportunity to bolster and regenerate the heart of North Walsham.”
District and town councillor Eric Seward said he would reserve judgment until details became clearer, but he added: “We must ensure this goes through due process. The last thing the town needs to be caught up in is a planning store wars between competing supermarkets.”