Supermarket giant Waitrose announces plans to open in North Walsham

High-end supermarket chain Waitrose has announced it wants to open in north Norfolk's largest town.

But news of the store's intentions to move into North Walsham has been met with a mixed reaction from traders and community leaders.

Waitrose wants to open in the empty Focus DIY store on Cromer Road, which has sat empty for many months, bringing more than 100 jobs to the town.

And while the new employment opportunities have been welcomed, questions have been raised as to whether North Walsham needs - or could cope with - a third supermarket as it is already home to a Sainsbury's and Lidl.

Vivienne Uprichard, North Walsham mayor, said: 'I have got mixed reactions. From a personal point of view I'd be delighted if there's a Waitrose in the vicinity, but from the point of view of the town, we have got two supermarkets and I would be concerned about the threat this may pose to the existing stores.

'And it will take some people out of the town.'

Trader Colin Page, who runs a traditional sweet shop in Market Place, did not think Waitrose would effect his niche business if it opened, but also queried whether another supermarket was needed.

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'I don't think it would be a direct threat to me as such but of course anything that takes trade away from the town centre is bad,' he added.

'I have never been in Waitrose but I have always understood they're the up market end of supermarket shopping. Sainsbury's is towards the middle and upwards end, I would have thought another high end supermarket would struggle in North Walsham.'

The North Norfolk Lib Dems, meanwhile have announced they will be holding a public consultation with residents to discuss the possibility of Waitrose moving into the town, and members have said they are looking forward to seeing more detailed proposals from the chain.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb added: 'In principle this substantial proposed investment in North Walsham looks like potentially very good news and could pull more people to the town, which might have a general beneficial effect as well as giving people more choices when doing their weekly shopping.

'However, I want to hear from local people and businesses to get their views and I must remain neutral on the planning application when it comes. I will be writing to the district council to ensure they protect local businesses when considering these proposals.'