Legal challenge as Tesco bids to start work on Sheringham store

Store giant Tesco is keen to start on its supermarket at Sheringham this year after winning a long-running planning battle.

But a question mark still hangs over the controversial approval given in October, because opponents of the store have asked the local government ombudsman to investigate the decision.

However, North Norfolk District Council spokesman Peter Battrick said the authority had issued the planning permission papers, which have 53 conditions attached, even though an ombudsman investigation was under way 'because a number of people complained about procedures'.

The council was co-operating fully but it was not known when the outcome would be announced.

Tesco's store on Cromer Road won the day in a head-to-head battle with a rival Greenhouse Community project scheme, which included a Waitrose store on the Weybourne Road.

It hinged on the casting vote of planning committee chairman Simon Partridge after councillors' opinions were split in a 7-7 tie.

Angry supporters of the Greenhouse scheme stormed out after the decision, branding the outcome a 'stitch-up' in what appeared to be the final act in a long-running battle involving Tesco and opponents stretching back 14 years.

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Tesco said its store scheme, on land currently occupied by the town's community centre and fire station, would stop locals driving out of town for their big weekly shop, and that a walkway will provide spin-off trade to the town centre.

Opponents, who led a long and vocal campaign against it said it would kill off existing traders, while the eco-friendly Greenhouse scheme, with a linked educational food academy, would have been more beneficial.

But officials and experts said the Waitrose store would do more damage to the town, because of its location on the edge of the town near the Splash swimming pool.

Tesco said dealing with the planning conditions paperwork was a 'six-month process' because of the scale of the project, and that lawyers were working on the scheme to ensure compliance. Spokesman Louise Gosling said: 'We're currently in the process of signing off conditions with the council and when that's done we hope to start building later this year. The new fire station and community centre will take priority, before the store is built.' She added: 'All our applications for new stores are carried out in strict compliance with both national and local planning policy. The Sheringham application was no different. We are confident the ombudsman's investigation will find nothing wrong with the council's decision to back our plans.'