Save our Sheringham - Say NO to Tesco

Friday, June 30, 2006

Democracy must come first.

NNDC discussed the report into the contract between Tesco and NNDC on Wednesday night. Despite some committee members saying the report didn't go far enough, and a lot of questions remaining unanswered it looks like the Chief Executive , Philip Burton (not elected by you) would like to move on and get the Tesco plans pushed through supported by his planning department.
If we are to stop this happening then the council needs to know the strength of feeling in and around the town. Visit the "Save our Sheringham" web site to get more details on who to contact and what to say.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The town that said no to Tesco

The Guardian has an interesting article regarding Saxmundham in Suffolk. Eight years ago, the Suffolk town of Saxmundham said no to a giant new Tesco. Today, local shops and suppliers are thriving, and campaigners are claiming a victory for individuality and the quality of life. But are things really that rosy? Saxmundham offers hope and even its most pessimistic traders insist they have not abandoned it. "We're still fighting. We're still in," says John Jackson the founder of Jackson's Bakery. "We believe that full circle will come around and all these supermarkets will eat each other and die of indigestion".
Consumers and communities do have a choice - there is an alternative to Tescopoly. Local shops can survive.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sound familiar?

The town of Ossett near Wakefield faces the same future as Sheringham if Tesco has its way. Tesco wants to buy the local teams football stadium and build a large store, the local shopkeepers fear they will be put out of business. Local Lib Dem councillor Alec Metcalf said: “Given the size Tesco stores usually are, it is reasonable to consider shops may close because of the competition.” It will be interesting to see how their campaign develops and what their council chooses to do.
And in Abingdon near Oxford traders are trying to prevent Tesco getting approval for an extension to their store on the edge of town. Planning officers recommended approval, based on reports from the Environment Agency and retail consultants Nathaniel Litchfield and Partners.
The Highways department did not oppose the plan. NLP's report said a bigger Tesco would not cause significant damage to town centre trade, but some councillors are not convinced and neither is the Chamber of Commerce. It says the Tesco extension would be equal to 25 shopping units in the Bury Street precinct. "The position is: a protracted fight with Tesco, or the demise of the town centres." The leader of the Vale council Jerry Patterson said: "If, having taken professional advice from several quarters, there are no grounds for objecting, then we must approve the application." Whatever happened to common sense and local democracy?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Tesco still can't admit the truth.

In a report in the Sunday Times on the deal between Tesco and NNDC a Tesco spokesman said: “We work constructively and openly with planners and local authorities to develop stores that are needed and are popular with communities. The agreement with North Norfolk district council was entered into freely by both parties and did not in any way prevent competition in the town. It simply required the landowner, in this case the local authority, to support the significant investment being made by Tesco above other schemes involving other land owned by them. It in no way restricted the authority’s role in the planning process or prevented them from supporting proposals from other supermarkets on privately owned land.” Well, I don't know about you but I think it certainly did restrict the authority's role in the planning process and as for being open he must live in an alternative universe!

Don't forget there is a public meeting on Wednesday for the Council to debate the report, the more people there to show an interest the less chance they have of sliding it under the carpet. 6pm at the Cromer Offices.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Did Tesco influence the Local Plan?

One of the interesting thoughts raised earlier by campaigners and made more plausible by reading the documents recently issued by the NNDC is that Tesco influenced the Development Committee in May 1996 not to include the Station Road site in the Local Plan as a suitable site for a supermarket. This was despite a Planning Brief being approved for the site in March 1996 and the Council Estates meeting with Budgens about a possible sale. It is no coincidence that in February 1996 Tesco had submitted plans for supermarket on Holway Road. They new that if the Local Plan included the Station Road site then their application was dead in the water.
More recently the revised Whole Settlement Strategy for Sheringham included the Station Road site as part of the Town Centre, the Development Committee itself called for a new Planning Brief to be prepared for the Station Road site. The recent investigation lacked the powers to get to the bottom of this and other issues. The council should revoke the deal with Tesco and start again.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A statement

The report raises more questions than it answers and shows the council as being at best naive at worst negligent. Why, for instance, did the former Chief Executive Bruce Barrell conduct much of the negotiation with Tesco and why did he feel the need to sign the agreement before the new Council took power? and why if it was so important to provide a separation of interests between the Council as landowner and the Council as Local Planning Authority can an agreement signed on behalf of the landowner be used to influence that of the Local Planning Authority? Only an independent inquiry can get to the bottom of this mess and any future determination of planning permission related to Tesco must be made by the Planning Inspectorate.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Whitewash over secret deals

The report into the Tesco deal has been published. The EDP says "Store deal secrecy slammed" and that it reveals that discussions between the council and company were kept "within a small circle of members and officers." The BBC says "Members kept in dark over pact". The report itself is 40 pages long with over 140 pages of other documents attached. Having read through it my initial thoughts are that the Council has been done up like a kipper. It had no experience of dealing with this kind of company and relied on external advice from lawyers and advisors without properly discussing it with the elected councillors. Unfortunately Tesco refused to provide any assistance with the report and despite the investigators being aware of "rumours and supposition" of "inducements or benefits" it did not , surprise surprise, find any evidence. The report does show that there was intense pressure put on the Chief Executive Bruce Barrell to sign the document after the election but before the new administration took power. There is also evidence of Tesco "playing the District and County Councils off against each other", "Tesco told the County officers that the proposal had 150% support from the District Council" even though it not yet been formally discussed.
There are numerous examples of incompetence and naivete by officers and councillors. For instance the Council as Landowners agreed as part of the deal to sell land to Tesco not to promote other council land for a supermarket, then the Council as Local Planning Authority wanted to amend the Local Plan and develop a Planning Brief for the Station Road site. Who has the most authority? Tesco!

Watch out for more comments as I wade through the piles of paper!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Stalham Tesco expansion plans

If you look at the plans for the Stalham Tesco they state they will create a "Gateway to Stalham". It rather looks to me that they will create a "Gateway to Tesco" with a few minor footpaths to the High Street. The addition of a further 19,000sq ft and the growth in non-food to include clothing will remove any hope the remaining shops had of competing for customers. Even Tesco admit their "objective is to attract more shoppers to an extended store" and even they can only guess that "other High Street business may benefit". Even though NNDC were told at the time of the original application that Tesco would expand until it had destroyed the town they didn't listen and now they have created their own worst nightmare. They can't oppose the application because there isn't a high street left to protect. Now they plan to do the same to Sheringham. Pathetic.

Send comments to and copy

Monday, June 19, 2006

D-Day gets closer

NNDC have stated that the investigation into the Document signed by Tesco and the Council preventing the use of the Station Road site for a supermarket will be made public on Wednesday. The Council leader Simon Partridge added that there would be a blackout on comments from cabinet members and officers until after the Full Council had debated the matter on June 28th. Will they do a Hutton and produce a whitewash, or stand-up and admit they did something wrong?
The report will be available on June 21 at, with hard copies placed in libraries and council offices on June 22.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Competition Commission update

The Competition Commission has outlined its "statement of issues" for areas it will look at during its inquiry into the grocery sector. It had identified several areas for close investigation, including the relationship between supermarkets and their suppliers, local competition and the planning regime, including whether retailers have been building up landbanks to prevent rivals opening new outlets. Unfortunately, it also expects to take 18 months to complete its investigations. protesc

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Councillors give in.

The NNDC Planning Committee decided that they should agree to allow the Planning Inquiry to be put into abeyance for six months to allow Tesco to submit another application. This was done even though the findings into the legal agreement between Tesco and the Council had not been released. Democracy, what democracy?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Received a response from Norman Lamb MP about my concerns for local democracy with Tesco seemingly able to control the council. He agreed that it was "untenable for local people to be left in the dark about a process that has been characterized by secrecy." This was in fact what he said in a debate in the House of Commons concluding "The whole planning process needs to be looked at to ensure that the public can have confidence in it." Hear Hear.
I also got a reply from our District Auditor at the Audit Commission who has confirmed that he is considering the Tesco issues at NNDC. He needs to conclude whether they are relevant matters and whether there is any action he needs to take.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Is this what we want for Sheringham?

Two pieces of news related to Tesco caught my eye this weekend. Neither of them endeared me to the company.
The first was the news that in Fakenham, Tesco had offered to pay for new town signs if they were allowed to advertise on them. A dangerous precedent. What next? Tesco sponsor the street lights as long as they are painted red and blue, redesign the one-way system to go into their car-park, or persuade the Council not to let other supermarkets expand in the town?

The other piece of news was that Tesco had been fined £15,000 for selling a baquette containing insulation foam. OK, that happens. But it was how Tesco reacted that we should take notice of. They refused to attend interviews with Norwich City Council, they then tried to blame other suppliers. Even the judge said it was a case of "delay and prevarication". Is this the kind of company we want in Sheringham?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Legal wrangle report goes to cabinet

The report into the NNDC agreement with Tesco goes to the cabinet today although we don't get to see it until the end of June. The report is expected to conclude that the council's executive committee gave authority for the signing of the deal. In a statement the council said the agreement did not involve planning officers or the planning committee. But the BBC has been told an officer, with the authority of senior councillors, signed the agreement with Tesco. What we need to know now is why? and is it legal?

Friday, June 09, 2006

It can be done!

A supermarket application in Epsom has been turned down. Despite recommendations for approval by council planning officers, members declared it too big and too ugly and said its juggernaut deliveries and customer traffic would be too dangerous. They also said it would be too much of a commercial threat to the town's smaller traders.

Does that sound familiar. If Epsom can do it, then so can we.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The campaign builds!

North Norfolk News reports that "the battle begins again". There are petitions available in Blyth and Wrights and in Bertram Watts stores.
If you can't get there yourself then you can write to :
Head of Planning, NNDC, Council Offices, Holt Road, Cromer, Norfolk NR27 9PZ

or send them an email at

Make sure you quote the reference number 20030991.

Make sure you say that in your opinion the towns economy and traffic will be adversely affected by the Tesco store and that the proposed store is in the wrong location. Refer to Have your Say for details on how to object to a planning application.

It doesn't matter if you don't live in Sheringham. If you want to save the vitality and uniqueness of our town then make your views heard. Please.

Council to present findings into legal wrangle.

The council will reveal their findings to the Full Council at a meeting on 28th June ( and to the cabinet on June 12th), but it appears that the document was signed by an officer on the authority of its then executive committee but not planning officers or planning committee members. Roy Haynes, who was an executive committee member until he lost his seat in the May 2003 election, said that despite the council's findings about the executive committee, he was unaware of any negotiations with Tesco. "Not at any time to my knowledge was any negotiating done with Tesco," he said.

I guess we will have to wait for the full report to find out more, but it is starting to rival some of the great conspiracies of our time.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

FT interview with Sir Terry Leahy

Unfortunately my question wasn't asked and most of the answers he gave were the usual nonsense about serving customers better, being successful etc. etc.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Council set to agree to Inquiry delay

At the Joint Development Committee meeting due on 8th June the Council have been advised by its officers to agree to delay the Planning Inquiry by 6-months to allow them to consider a new application by Tesco.

I don't agree that the Inquiry should be delayed because it was clear that the decision made on 13th April was not made on planning grounds but on other financial and legal issues. Until this matter is resolved then no decision can be made on anything related to it.

Let your councillors know what you think, but do it quickly.
These are the committee members.

It was the doctor!

I hear on the grapevine that NNDC are unable to decipher the signature on the legal agreement with Tesco. What sort of legal document doesn't have your name printed on it?

Monday, June 05, 2006

A sense of place

Finally tracked down the Ecologist article on Sheringham and its battle with Tesco. The report is interesting but it was written before the Council backed down at Appeal so assumes that Sheringham has won. Let's hope it is prophetic!

A few interesting facts for you from the article -
Sheringham Town Centre has 42 different types of shop.
95 are independent/local.
Only 19 are national or global and of these 6 are banks.

"Sheringham is a picturesque little place. Its buildings are mostly brick and Norfolk flint, its roads are narrow and the town is bound at one end by the arm of the sea wall, sweeping low between the sea and the shore. And it does have a certain feel about it. For a while I’m not quite sure why. It could be the east wind coming in from the sea, or the slight smell of salt in the air, or the wide skies. It takes me a while to pin down what this feeling is, and why, but in the end I do. It is a feeling of individuality, of character, of uniqueness that is lacking in so many of our communities today. Sheringham has a sense of place"

Friday, June 02, 2006

Question Sir Terry Leahy

The CEO of Tesco will be taking part in an online interview for the FT newspaper on 6th June at 15:30. You can submit your questions to him here.

My question was "Given that your market share is now 31.1% how do you justify increasing your sales area by 2 million sqft in the next year (as stated in your annual report)? Should you be referred to the Monoplies Commission?"

We'll have to wait until next Tuesday to find out whether he gets asked the question!

Tesco's market share reaches record high.

It has been reported widely today that the market share now held by Tesco reached a record high of 31.1% an increase of 8% in the last year. It is normal for the Monopolies and Mergers Commission to investigate at 25% so it will be interesting to see what happens with the current OFT competition inquiry.