Tesco hits back on store plans

RICHARD BATSON Store chain Tesco says opponents of its planned Sheringham store are a fervent minority whose objections are unfounded.

RICHARD BATSON

Store chain Tesco says opponents of its planned Sheringham store are a fervent minority whose objections are unfounded.

A glossy 70-page report lodged with its renewed supermarket plans counters campaigners' claims that the scheme would harm the town centre and cause traffic chaos on the Cromer road.

It says the physical effects of the proposed 1,500 sq m store - which is about 60pc the size of Cromer's Morrisons - could only be positive as it would replace land containing the fire station, community centre and old flats - mainly "utilitarian buildings of no real architectural value within a generally unremarkable setting."

Tesco's agents, Alsop Verrill, in their statement of community involvement, said a Norfolk County Council report accepted there could be some negative impact and business closures, but it claimed empty shops would soon be taken up because of the increased trade brought to the town by the store.

While new food stores brought change that would not be welcomed by some, a clear majority of people who attended a summer public consultation session saw benefits.

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A new traffic survey had established that allegations of serious congestion and fatalities in the area were without justification, it said. And the plans just submitted included roadway and pedestrian safety improvements.

The report said opposition to the Tesco store was "clearly a minority view, even if this is a sizable minority" and was partly motivated by a strong antipathy towards Tesco. There was also an inaccurate view of the way in which the company and North Norfolk District Council had dealt with the planning application process - referring to a land deal, discovered by planning councillors at the last moment, which ruled out the use of a rival site as a supermarket.

Tesco stressed that, far from the bullying and manipulative approach being alleged, it had conducted itself in a patient manner.

The company's surveys showed 69pc in favour of the Tesco plan, while the report concluded there was a fervent and emphatic but much less numerous body of opposition.

Tesco's claims were rejected by the Sheringham Campaign Against Major Retail Overdevelopment. Chairman Eroica Mildmay said the group's 3,600-name petition against the plan, put against the 273 responses to the summer survey, showed they were not in a minority.

She said some of Tesco's statistics - such as a website claim that only 1pc of townsfolk, which meant 72 people, did their weekly shop in the high street - were "patently nonsense".

Campaigners also say the town only needs a 750 sq m foodstore, in line with emerging planning policy in the new local development framework. But Tesco says that would not be big enough to stop the exodus of weekly shoppers out of town.

The Sheringham Tesco controversy is featured on a television documentary this week. Shopping the Supermarkets is being screened daily on BBC1 at 9.15am, with Sheringham's planning battle, including local protest meetings, featuring on Friday.