Save our Sheringham - Say NO to Tesco

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

How big?

In the Tesco annual report just released they quite proudly state that they increased their sales area during 2005 by 2m sq ft and that they plan to increase it by the same amount during 2006. Lets hope they don't plan to build it all in Norfolk!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Who dunnit?

The Guardian has printed an apology for its recent article on the secret document at NNDC. It states that the "short, front-page story introducing an inside news feature on the planning process for a new Tesco store in Sheringham, Norfolk, gave the mistaken impression that the planning department of North Norfolk council had been involved in signing a secret agreement with the supermarket company (Planners sign secret deal with Tesco, page 1, April 29). In fact it was the then executive committee of the council that entered into the agreement. Neither the council's planning department nor any elected committee concerned with planning matters was involved."
As stated before, the elections were held on 1st May 2003, the document was signed on 9th May and the first council meeting was held on 14th May. Did the executive committee have the authority to sign such a document, and why has the Guardian been told while we are all waiting for the outcome of an investigation into the secret agreement?

Better Budgens?

Good luck to the new managers at the Sheringham Budgens store who have taken over the franchise. They promise to improve the stock control and checkouts as these are the biggest issues for shoppers. If they can do this then they will have performed a major service to the community and perhaps persuaded some disgruntled shoppers that having a Tesco superstore is not such an important issue any more.


It was a busy weekend in Sheringham as holidaymakers and visitors enjoyed the towns shops and attractions. The thought of having a Tesco situated on the main road with the added traffic it would bring doesn't really bear thinking about. How Tesco and the council can say that the proposed store would have no traffic impact is beyond me!
On a different traffic note I am starting to get some visitors to the blog and one or two comments which is good. Having the website as well means greater exposure in search engines for casual searchers. The more the merrier!

Friday, May 26, 2006

A website as well!!

I feel this blog is useful but a bit unwieldy so I have created a new website to collect some of this information together in a (hopefully) neater format.

Let me know what you think of the website, I will keep adding to this blog as I get any news though.

Common sense?

I received a nice letter from a fellow campaigner thanking me for my contributions to the debate. He also provided me with some details of the submission he has made to the Planning Inquiry. Most of it is common sense, which makes me wonder how we ever got into this situation in the first place. If so many people can see it doesn't make sense to put a supermarket where Tesco propose, why can't the planners?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Markets NOT supermarkets

Very interesting article in the Independent on a new report from the New Economic Forum that shows street markets generate substantial benefits for the local economy. Although based on a study at Queens Market, East London there are lots of relevant points, for example they found that markets employ more staff than equivalent supermarkets, that goods were cheaper and that there was more choice.
The article also includes the results of a survey of 1,000 people for ICM last week that found more than 80 per cent of consumers want new laws brought in to curb the power of the big supermarket chains.

A similar article in the Sunday Times states that Farmers Markets are also cheaper than supermarkets, although not as cheap as street markets.

A couple of things

Did you see the full page advert in the papers today with Tescos new 10 point action plan to be good neighbours. It's amazing what you can influence when you have the money, from planning departments to the Competition Commission.
For example, point 2 " we want to double the amount of cans, cartons, paper and bottles that you bring in for recycling." Why don't they just reduce the amount of packaging they use, it would have the same effect!
Point 4. "our nutritional food labels will be on every eligible own-label pack by spring next year." But these are not the ones agreed by the Food Agency as Tesco don't want to frighten you in to not buying food that is bad for you, so they have come up with their own confusing system.
Point 8. "We'd also like to talk to you more when we plan our stores." Note, talk to you, not listen to you, there is a difference.

While some of their points might be positive, in reality they are things they should and would be doing anyway just re-packaged to impress gullible shoppers and politicians.

OK rant over!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Welcome new readers

Hello to readers of the Sheringham Independent. I hope you find the site useful. There is lots of information here regarding the Tesco application and other related news. Please get involved in the debate, if you keep quiet you are not entitled to complain later!
If there is anything you think should be put on the site then email me at -

Friday, May 19, 2006

A message from Terry Leahy

This was sent to Tesco staff from Sir Terry Leahy in response to the Competition Commissions investigation.

As you may know, supermarkets are facing the possibility of a lengthy Competition Commission investigation into the part they play in the grocery market.

I would like to stress how vital it is that we are not distracted from doing the things that we know are right for our customers.

Our plans this year are our best ever. We have launched a Customer Plan, which will allow us to improve all aspects of our shopping trip and a new Community Plan, that will recognise the important part we all play in local people’s lives.

Remember - it is what our customers think that is important. So please be warm and friendly and, if they raise any concerns, ask them to judge us on their shopping experience, not on what critics and competitors say.

I am sure you will be reassured to know that we are putting together an expert team to make our case, as we have done with previous inquiries. For everyone else, please focus on business as usual and looking after our customers.

Terry Leahy
Chief Executive

Of course they're not worried about it!!

Taking Every Shopping Centre Over

letters in North Norfolk News

My letter was published this week in NNN. (see "left hand-right hand" below). In the same section was a letter from Protesc accusing the media of bias against Tesco and stating that many people in Sheringham want a Tesco.
I guess it depends what question you ask!
I wouldn't say no to a Tesco in the right place and of an appropriate size, the current proposal is neither. So my objections will continue.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lets debate.

The EDP online forum has a debate on the Tesco situation in Sheringham. Why not go and add your views.

Ombudsman begins investigation

The Local Government Ombudsman(LGO) has begun an investigation into the agreement signed between Tesco and North Norfolk District Council. They have asked the council to respond to the complaint in the first instance and to obtain further information. The Council Leader Simon Partridge said "We want to be as open as possible." and that they would co-operate with any LGO investigation but also stated that an internal investigation was in its early stages.

BBC News article

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sheringham makes the front cover of Ecologist

I haven't had a chance to read this yet but apparently the Sheringham battle against Tesco has made the front cover of the Ecologist magazine.
"The Tesco Chain Store Massacre Cover story ‘It’s about what we are – an individual town, or just like everywhere else? An individual life, or a life controlled by someone else?’ How one small town took on Tesco – and won. Paul Kingsnorth reports."

Thanks to marmaLADYa for spotting this.

Sheringham will soon have a Tesco superstore ... whether they want one or not.

That is the introduction to the Politics Show East when they discussed the issue of Tesco and the NNDC. On the show David Woodthorpe reports from Sheringham and "digs deeper into a complex affair which, on the face of it, seems to undermine the process of local democracy." There is an interview with Norman Lamb MP and Simon Partridge, NNDC Leader. Mr Partridge admits that they don't yet know who signed the legal agreement and that bizarrely it was signed on the 9th May 2003, between the elections on 1st May 2003 and the first sitting of the new council on 14th May 2003. He has also agreed that there may be a case for the Local Government Ombudsman to become involved. There are also interviews with some of the shopkeepers opposed to the new store. There was some mention of the land deal done with the County and District Councils which commits them to sell the land to Tesco if planning permission is granted.

You can watch it here (the Tesco report starts 21 minutes into the programme and lasts for 10 minutes) Politics Show East 14th May 2006

more details of secret document?

This Planning Portal news item states the "secret" document was signed in 2003 and includes a quote from Tesco that the agreement "precludes the council from promoting an alternative council-owned site". The spokesman also states that it was routine and that "this is completely normal in these sort of property deals". Tesco would be submitting a revised application in "the near future". Well it may be normal for Tesco but it seems rather fishy to me.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Tesco kept in the news

Good to see the letters and comments in the North Norfolk News yesterday. Mostly agreeing that Tesco, whether in Stalham, Sheringham or elsewhere will affect the character and trade of the existing town centre. They didn't publish my letter on differences of opinion in the council( see Left Hand Right Hand below) which was disappointing as I included a reference to this weblog to try to expand its readership. Never mind, I will keep going and hopefully find other ways to get the message across.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Sir Terry Leahy begins Tesco charm offensive

Following the news that Tesco (and other supermarkets) are to be investigated by the Competition Commission the bosss of Tesco, Sir Terry Leahy, announced a raft of new measures to try and improve the companies image and to be good neighbours. This included introducing biodegradable carrier bags, the use of green energy, and the introduction of a "regional counter" in stores to encourage shoppers to buy locally produced goods in season. They have also pulled out of a campaign to deregulate Sunday shopping. They said this was not in response to the OFT investigation, but their planning goes back several years. Why then was it not introduced earlier?
The problem is that they want planning rules relaxed to enable them to get planning permission for large wind turbines, and a rate reduction if they build them, and the profits they make still don't benefit the local economy.
On Newsnight last night Sir Terry Leahy gave a smarmy performance and tried to rebut accusations that they bullied planning departments and abused the power their size gives them."We don't always win, we do give up" he said of planning applications. "The decison is not ours, but we do advance our arguments". In his Community Plan Sir Terry promised they would listen to residents and even that they may not build Tesco stores if they weren't wanted. As for addressing criticism that its stores open in places it is not wanted Sir Terry said Tesco would consult local communities "proactively" from 2007. "This is not a paper exercise. It will be our opportunity to listen and do practical things about concerns," he said.
Now there's a challenge I can't refuse. I feel a letter to Sir Terry coming on.

Sir Terry Leahy
Chief Executive Officer
Tesco House
PO Box 18

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Competition Commission to investigate supermarkets

The OFT has agreed that supermarkets are to face an inquiry into claims that they are forcing smaller stores out of business with unfair practices. The Competition Commission has been ordered to investigate allegations of price-rigging, the manipulation of development land and whether the planning system allows retailers to distort competition. OFT Press release 09/05/2006
Not a surprise to those of us who have been following the Tesco planning application. Unfortunately it may have come too late to save Sheringham. However, I have written to the inquiry asking them to investigate the Tesco legal agreement with the Council which prevents other supermarkets negotiating with the council for land. You can do the same by sending a letter to
The Inquiry Secretary (Groceries market inquiry)
Competition Commission
Victoria House
Southampton Row

or email

In the detailed reasons the OFT states that Tesco now appears to have nearly twice the market share (in terms of overall grocery retailing)of its nearest competitor, more than 30% of the overall market. Surely, this alone is reason enough to prevent the further expansion of the Tesco empire.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Left hand - right hand !

I have been reading the working party report on the Local Development Framework for Sheringham Appendix 3 Sheringham Vision, Objectives and Site Specific Proposals and interestingly they suggest that retail development should be on the site of the sorting office, garage and library in the centre of town or on the Station Road car park. No mention of Cromer Road for development! They also state that by 2021 they expect another 300+ houses to be built in Sheringham. This is hardly enough to justify a Tesco designed to support 30,000 customers.
In another section Appendix 10 location of retail and Commercial leisure development they state that retail development over 750 sqm should only take place in Cromer, Fakenham and North Walsham. It seems to me that one part of the council planning department is at odds with another. If Tesco obtains planning permission then the LDF might just as well be chucked out of the window!

Monday, May 08, 2006

What do they have to hide?

In the minutes of the Council meeting on 03/04/2006 (Minutes 3 April 2006) during the debate on the Station Road car park it was felt necessary to exclude the public from the meeting. Why?
Clearly they discussed the Tesco agreement not to use council land for an alternative supermarket site. Ultimately they resolved not to proceed with the consultation brief for Station Road produced for discussion with the public, before the public even had a say on it. They did agree to revisit the issue in Sept/Oct clearly hoping that Tesco would have received planning permission by then and it wouldn't be necessary.
Also, during the discussion any councillor with a personal interest was excluded from the debate. This seems a very short-sighted way to work. I always find this approach worrying, surely every view should be considered even if they are not allowed to vote. Would a business exclude those people who know most about a subject because they might be biased? Can anybody really say they are impartial?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Time for action

I have now written to Simon Partridge (Council Leader) at North Norfolk District Council asking him to make the results of his investigation public and to ensure that no staff were encouraged in any way by Tesco to agree to the restrictive legal agreement. The letter also demanded that they rescind the planning approval they gave at the last meeting as it was not based on planning issues. I have also copied Norman Lamb MP as he also seems keen to ensure that the planning process is as open and honest as possible.

We can but hope.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sheringham sold down the river by secret deals.

This weekend saw a number of articles in the national and local press relating how the District Council have suddenly decided to approve a Tesco in Sheringham. In the Guardian they state that "The Guardian has learned that the elected councillors ended their opposition because they discovered they were bound by an secret legal agreement between former council staff and Tesco. The agreement, containing a confidentiality clause forbidding any discussion of the planning dispute, leaves the council powerless, according to council lawyers... The council leader Simon Partridge confirmed an investigation into the secret contract had been launched. Signed by council staff in 2003, before the current councillors were sworn in, it prevents councillors from considering a proposal by a rival supermarket to build smaller store on council land. When the council rejected Tesco's plan, it committed itself to examining another proposal to build a Budgens supermarket on council land. Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem MP for North Norfolk, said he was horrified by the "apparent fact that the council is constrained in acting in the way it wants to act" He said: 'I understand that the councillors are in an impossible position. They have been given legal advice and must maintain confidentiality.'"
Read the full story here Secret deal behind a Norfolk town's mystery U-turn on new supermarket

The EDP also reports the story Anger at 11th hour Tesco document

What we need to know now is how the advice of planning staff to councillors was influenced by this document. More importantly though, what other documents and deals are still hiding in the shadows?