Save our Sheringham - Say NO to Tesco

Friday, November 23, 2007

Sheringham 17 - 0 Tesco

It may have looked like any other day in the busy shopping streets of Sheringham yesterday.But the spring in the step of long-established traders, and chink of wine glasses from smiling campaigners, were clues that it was not.Opponents of a long-running bid by Tesco to build a store in the town were cock-a-hoop after the scheme was turned down by an overwhelming 17-0 vote by councillors, which earned that rare accolade for elected members - a standing ovation from a cheering public gallery. But celebrations will be short-lived, as the retail giant is already taking the matter to appeal, meaning a fresh battle looms in the New Year.However campaigners feel their latest victory will strengthen their case for the next chapter of a saga stretching back more than a decade.After a two-hour debate by North Norfolk District Council's joint planning committee, Eroica Mildmay from the Sheringham Campaign Against Major Retail Overdevelopment, said the outcome was an “absolutely fantastic victory for common sense over corporate bullying”.And chamber of trade chairman Janet Farrow was “elated and ready to fight on” after local councillors listened to local people.The committee refused the 1,500sq m store on the Cromer Road saying it was too big, at twice the size recommended in an emerging new planning blueprint for the town.There were fears it would harm the existing town centre traders, and cause traffic problems on the busy coast road.Councillors also said its design on a prominent gateway to the town was also incompatible with the surroundings, including Sheringham's only listed building, the Catholic Church opposite.The scheme involves a store, 188 parking spaces, and pedestrian walkway through to the town centre. A package of linked plans will see the community centre and fire station on the site rebuild elsewhere.Tesco, and a pro lobby group, said it would help the town by stopping people heading to neighbouring stores for their weekly shop, and providing spin-off trade for the town. But it has met with fierce opposition over its potential impact on the town centre.Planning officer Andy Mitchell said there was a “divergence of opinion” shown in a new survey by the pro-Tesco lobby this month which said 53pc of people were in favour and 47pc against.Officers recommended approval, and warned that if councillors refused it, costs could be awarded the authority at appeal if it could not produce evidence to back up the reasons.Among members of the public to address the committee was Dr Ian Shepherd, from the county branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, who said any decision should not be based on appeal costs, but on local knowledge. Vibrant towns tended to be “supermarket light” and independent shops, which were the heartbeat of the community, were an endangered species.Twenty-year-old Laura Thomas said people her age were the future of Sheringham, which should be “untouched by the dull clone town effect” which could result from “another greedy victory” for Tesco.Co-franchisee of the local Budgens supermarket Paul Burnell pleaded with councillors not to bow down to the “fat wallets, landbanking and bullying tactics” of Tesco.But Tesco supporter Paul Norman said a lot of local people felt bullied by the “strident” anti lobby which was determined to reject change even if it benefitted many people.Protesc campaign leader Pam Blyth said a majority of local people were in favour of the plan, while Tesco agent Malcolm Alsop said the proposed store, 60pc the size of the Cromer Morrison's, could provide the same kind of regeneration as a new Tesco had at Fakenham.Sheringham's councillors were all against the plan, with Hilary Nelson saying that a large store might suit a major inland town like Fakenham, but was unsuitable for a smaller seaside resort, where it threat had been a “sword of Damacles” blighting town investment for more than a decade.Penny Bevan Jones threw down the gauntlet for Tesco to “redeem its tainted reputation” by working with the local community to come up with a smaller eco-friendly store made of straw.The move to refuse the store came from Henry Cordeaux, who said it was too big, and a poor design with “acres of glass and some flint”.Afterwards Tesco corporate affairs manager Michael Kissman said it was a “sad day for the majority of residents of Sheringham” who wanted the store. But that the company would continue to press for their plan at appeal.Budgens' Mr Burnell also said the company, which has permission for a smaller store on part of the main town car park, would seek to work with the council and community to reignite its proposals.