Planners set to turn down application for edge-of-town North Walsham supermarket

The Marricks Wire Ropes site at North Walsham.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

The Marricks Wire Ropes site at North Walsham.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

An application for another supermarket on the outskirts of North Walsham is set to be thrown out today, because a planning chief wants to protect the town centre from commercial ruin.

She fears another Cromer Road store, in addition to the nearby Waitrose, could suck almost half the trade and income from North Walsham town centre.

After nearly a year of discussions on a package of measures to lessen the store's impact, stalemate has been reached - leaving a gap of £265,000 between what North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) officers want for the town and what developers Scott Properties are prepared to stump up.

NNDC's development committee will meet this morning to discuss Scott Properties' application for a supermarket and petrol station on the former Marrick's Wire Ropes site. Nicola Baker, head of planning, is recommending that it should be refused.

Scott Properties want to build a store with a net sales area of about 39,000 sq ft - a bit larger than North Walsham's Sainsbury's. The scheme would include a petrol station and would create about 250 jobs.

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Last March NNDC's development committee approved the plan, subject to a satisfactory package of 'mitigation measures' being agreed.

Their decision followed a retail consultant's report, commissioned by NNDC, which concluded that the existing Waitrose store plus another Cromer Road supermarket would together have a 47pc impact on North Walsham town centre. The report's findings are disputed by Scott Properties.

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NNDC had originally wanted Scott Properties to contribute £1,395,000 towards schemes which would attract investment to the town centre and encourage other uses of its buildings.

The developer's first offer was £150,000. NNDC compromised and asked for £750,000. Scott Properties increased its offer to £485,000 but has refused to budge beyond that.

The developer's package includes:

? £100,00 for free short-stay car parking in the town centre

? £70,000 for street lighting and street furniture

? £100,000 for improved pedestrian links to the town centre

? £50,000 for a rates holiday to help town-centre businesses

? £50,000 for shop-front redecoration.

But NNDC, backed by North Walsham Town Council and the town's chamber for business, believe that the complete proposals fall far short of what would be needed, and that some would not be relevant.

Chamber chairman Nicholas Lee said there were more than 100 businesses in the town centre, including Sainsbury's, and if the retail consultant was right, far more jobs would be lost with the new store's arrival than it would create.

Mr Lee believed many residents only wanted the store because of the associated petrol station, bringing much-needed competition for Sainsbury's garage. The chamber would not object to another filling station, but not attached to another large supermarket.

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