Greenhouse boss hits out at Sheringham store decision

The man behind a pioneering supermarket plan at Sheringham has hit out at the planning decision that saw his scheme beaten by rivals Tesco.

Clive Hay-Smith's Greenhouse Community Project was devised as an eco-friendly alternative to Tesco's long-standing bid to build a store in the town.

But it was thrown out by a single vote - cast by the planning committee chairman after a 7-7 tie - after a tense meeting that once more highlighted the split in opinion and support surrounding the two plans.

Mr Hay-Smith left the meeting immediately after the vote, simply saying 'stitch up' and has declined to be interviewed. But a statement on the project's website has revealed his 'bitter disappointment' over the decision and seen him attack the council process which led to it.

But North Norfolk District Council's top officer has defended the outcome saying he could understand Mr Hay-Smith's disappointment but that it was the right decision taken following legal advice.

Weybourne businessman Mr Hay-Smith says in his message that the council was 'set to welcome a retail 'cuckoo' into the heart of our beloved community.'

It would 'twin Sheringham with the nearly 2500 other Tesco clone towns' in the UK, when his scheme had offered a 'unique opportunity' to benefit economically a world class, employee-owned food store operated by Waitrose, combined with the educational Norfolk Food Academy's and kitchen gardens, coupled with eco-friendly architecture and infrastructure including electric transport.

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It was the 'lack of ambition and vision that is most disheartening' he says, especially in the current government efforts to promote 'philanthropy, environmental sustainability and accountable local government' as part of its Big Society ethos.

'Obviously not in North Norfolk,' he says in his comments which thank supporters for their encouragement and loyalty.

Mr Hay-Smith said he was 'disappointed, both personally and for Sheringham, that my vision for Greenhouse will no longer become a reality.'

Many people had contacted him to express 'anger, disbelief and disappointment' at the October 14 decision.

He said the first part of the meeting had clarified an earlier decision that backed the Greenhouse scheme rather than the Tesco one, but failed to ratify it.

The process was delayed for seven months while three councillors, one of whom had proposed supporting Greenhouse, were the target of formal complaints made by known Pro-Tesco supporters, but later exonerated.

It gave time for Tesco to submit new plans, and also saw the original planning committee disbanded and reconstituted - without Greenhouse proposer Candy Sheridan, and with Tesco proposer Simon Partridge installed as chairman - and whose casting vote finally decided the outcome.

He adds: 'I understand that certain councillors and members of the public are requesting the formal intervention of the Ombudsman. I can fully understand that.

'Clearly, I am also bitterly disappointed by this result and the seemingly questionable means and methods by which it was effected,' he says and is seeking further legal advice.

He would continue to press on with funding and completing the construction of a new town council-owned storage facility, new cemetery parking and on-site toilets for allotment users.

Council chief executive Philip Burton said: 'I can fully understand Mr. Hay-Smith's disappointment at the decision, but that doesn't mean it was the wrong decision.

'The district council took external legal advice at a number of stages during this protracted planning process to ensure that it was conducted in a totally correct manner, and that it at all times complied fully with the law.

'The questions Mr. Hay-Smith raises are not new and have been answered fully and publicly by the council in the past.'

'Which ever plan was approved was always going to disappoint something like half the people of Sheringham. We are content that the right decision has been made.'