Tesco referendum call

RICHARD BATSON A town referendum should be used to settle a long-running wrangle over a planned Tesco supermarket at Sheringham. That is the view of a local resident, who is also standing as a councillor - but who will seek to call a town vote whether he wins or loses.

RICHARD BATSON

A town referendum should be used to settle a long-running wrangle over a planned Tesco supermarket at Sheringham.

That is the view of a local resident, who is also standing as a councillor - but who will seek to call a town vote whether he wins or loses.

David Thompson is a supporter of the local Tesco plan, which is awaiting a final planning decision from North Norfolk District Council.

But the town has been split over the controversial scheme, with pro and anti lobbies clashing in sometimes heated meetings and demonstrations.

Both sides claim to represent the local view, but a town poll would provide a definitive answer, said Mr Thompson.

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The move follows a similar vote at Cromer, where townsfolk called for a referendum that saw a near-20pc turnout give a resounding no to equally controversial plans to put parking in a redevelopment of North Lodge Park.

There are also thoughts of having a town poll to reflect local opinion on plans to sell off a toilet block at Holt, which campaigners wanted to use for a museum site.

Mr Thompson said that in the light of those two moves: "The residents of Sheringham should have a say on whether they want a supermarket."

Although he was standing as a Labour candidate in the town at the forthcoming district-council elections, he would call for the poll whether he got elected or not. He conceded that there might be some "problems" if Tesco came to town but said the council should be positive, forward-thinking and not backward-looking.

The fact that Cromer, which had three supermarkets, still had a butcher and other good food shops, showed that good shops could survive against big- store competition.

Mr Thompson, who uses Tesco online for his shopping, said: "What is wrong with supporting a successful company like Tesco? If people don't like them they don't have to shop there."

If a poll is to go ahead, a meeting must be called for by six residents, staged by the town council and have more than 10 electors call for the vote, which must then be held within 14 to 25 days of the district council being notified.

The Tesco plan centres on a new store on the Cromer Road, as well as a replacement fire station and community centre. It has been shrouded in controversy, not only on planning issues, but over the council handling of a land deal with Tesco which effectively ruled out a rival plan by Budgens near the town centre.

Tesco and its supporters say the scheme will create jobs, parking, encourage visitors and stop people leaving town for their big weekly shop.

Opponents say it will harm the vibrant town centre and cause traffic chaos on the already-busy coast road.

Detailed reports on amended plans are being drawn up and might be ready for discussion by councillors on May 24, said district council planning officer Andy Mitchell.