New Tesco plan for Sheringham

RICHARD BATSON Tesco has re-ignited the big supermarket debate at Sheringham, with a new set of plans which it says are backed by two thirds of local people.

RICHARD BATSON

Tesco has re-ignited the big supermarket debate at Sheringham, with a new set of plans which it says are backed by two-thirds of local people.

But the claim, based on 282 responses to a public consultation session, was last night dismissed as "utterly weak" by anti-supermarket campaigners who pointed out they had recently delivered a 3,667-name petition against the scheme to Downing Street.

The store giant has been battling for 10 years to build a supermarket on the Cromer Road, after putting together a complex set of land deals that would also involve it replacing the town's community centre and fire station.

Plans have split the local community with the Sheringham Campaign Against Major Retail Overdevelopment (Scamrod) leading opponents who say the store will suck the lifeblood out of the existing thriving town centre, while a pro-Tesco group of supporters say local people want an improved local foodstore.

The saga has taken various twists and turns as North Norfolk district councillors at first agreed the store plans, but with conditions that Tesco would not accept.

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Then they voted to refuse it, but did a dramatic U-turn and withdrew their objections after learning of a land deal between the council and Tesco which effectively ruled out a rival site nearer town.

Tesco has appealed against the earlier indecision, but has now submitted fresh plans which have added improvements following a public consultation session in the town last summer.

They included 10pm closing rather than midnight, and traffic islands near the entrance - in a bid to get "the detail right for Sheringham," said corporate affairs manager Michael Kissman.

He added the company was "heartened at the level of public support for the foodstore", and was "now sure that at least two out of three local people support it".

The comment was based on the 282 reply cards it received after the public consultation. Some 172 (61pc) supported the store, and another 23 (8pc) backed it with reservations.

Mr Kissman urged the majority not to stay silent over the plans.

It also followed a poll run on North Norfolk Radio last July that showed 82pc support, and Tesco's view that opposition came from a "vocal minority" in a town, where half the households headed to Cromer Morrison's for their weekly shop.

The Tesco plan aimed to bring customers and trade back to the town, and create 100 full- and part-time jobs.

"We hope that local people will let the council know their views about the store," said Mr Kissman, who said one comment card felt the proposals were "excellent - and should be a great asset to the town".

It added the "little shops" - which campaigners say would be threatened by the advent of Tesco - would be fine, just as they were when the market was introduced amid fears it would also damage the town centre.

Scamrod spokeswoman Eroica Mildmay said they would be opposing the new Tesco plans which were the "same old, same old" and that the 282 sample of support paled into insignificance against the 3,667 opposing it in their petition.

Council area planning manager Andy Mitchell said the new plans meant a fresh round of consultations but, with the all the arguments well rehearsed, replies should come in quickly and it was hoped to take the plans to committee inside 10 weeks.