Sheringham shops issue set of demands to Tesco

Traders at Sheringham have thrown down the gauntlet to Tesco, demanding help for the hard-pressed town centre as the countdown begins to next year's superstore opening.

Shopkeepers are ready to 'let bygones be bygones' after a 14-year battle to stop the store giant setting up in the town.

But, with less than a year to go until Tesco opens on Cromer Road, they are calling for a package of pledges to ensure that the controversial facility does not damage existing businesses.

They want Tesco to:

? Promote town centre shops inside its store

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? Fork out �7,500 per year for three years to sponsor the town's Experience Sheringham promotional website

? Guarantee three hours' free parking at Tesco, so that people have time to shop at the supermarket and visit the town centre.

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The traders are also set to join forces to call for reduced business rates - arguing that the arrival of Tesco will make trading more difficult.

Sheringham Chamber of Trade and Commerce secretary Andy Bullen said: 'There has been animosity for 14 years, but we are prepared to work with Tesco and let bygones be bygones.

'But there has to be a level playing field. It would be great PR for Tesco if it could prove that it can arrive in a town without damaging its vitality.'

He added: 'It's in their hands. Are they going to be greedy and say they don't give a damn - or are they prepared to do what they can to help us?'

Chamber vice-chairman Julia Moss said: 'I think the poor recent weather and economic downturn means many traders are thinking about the here and now. But there's a core who are ready to take Tesco on in a positive way.'

Tesco spokesman Louise Gosling said: 'As a member of the local business community it is in our interests to make sure Sheringham remains a vibrant and thriving town and we are very keen to do as much as possible to support this.'

She said the company had already offered to display chamber of trade advertisements in store, and had agreed to encourage shoppers to go into the town centre by building a connecting walkway.

She added that the company was providing a new fire station, community centre and �1m for replacement affordable housing as part of its planning permission.

Mr Bullen said a meeting had been held recently with Sandy Leonard from the Valuations Office Agency, which oversees business rates.

He said the system was 'strange', and led to some traders paying 'far more' than they should.

He added that Sheringham traders would be putting together collective evidence for why their rates should be cut, citing the looming competition from Tesco as a major factor.

The chamber has also followed up last year's mystery shopper survey of the town's stores by Retail Revival with a survey of its own - asking Sheringham residents to name their favourite town shops.

The four winners - Blyth and Wright ironmonger, Claws and Paws pet shop, All Natural health food store and Dawn Fresh fruit and veg - have been given certificates naming them as the best for customer service.

Tesco finally gained permission for its Sheringham store in autumn 2010, after a bitter battle that divided opinion in the town.

It is currently going through a series of developments that were part of the planning consent.

It has built a new fire station on Cromer Road, and is constructing a community centre on Holway Road. Once the community centre is completed, Tesco will demolish the existing community centre, fire station and Lockerbie flats to make way for its new store - scheduled to open in April or May 2013.

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