Save our Sheringham - Say NO to Tesco

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Final bid to stop new Tesco store

Campaigners have made their final impassioned pleas to stop a Tesco store being built in their town.

After a decade-long saga of applications and rejection at Sheringham, opponents of the supermarket scheme outlined their fears as a 10-day appeal hearing ended with closing speeches.

Sheringham Campaign Against Major Retail Overdevelopment (Scamrod) chairman Eroica Mildmay broke down in tears as she said: "We have been trying to save our town and avoid the trauma of watching, through our fingers, as shops drift into decline."

Tesco's scheme for a 1,500 sq m store and 180 parking spaces on the Cromer Road was the biggest development facing the town since railways arrived in the 1890s.

"It has taken generations to build up the High Street, but it could take just three years to completely undo it," she told the inquiry.

Chamber of Trade chairman Janet Farrow said the town centre stood to lose nearly £1m of trade to Tesco in the first year, which would have a major effect on its vitality, while the extra 13,500 shopping journeys diverted to the town would cause traffic congestion on the main coast road and rat-runs down residential streets.

They favoured the 750 sq m store being suggested in the emerging Local Development Framework (LDF) planning policy, because a 1,500 sq m store would cover the same retail floorspace as the rest of the town's shops put together.

James Strachan, barrister for North Norfolk District Council which refused the store plan last year, said allowing it now would "strangle at birth" the new LDF. Tesco's scheme was based on outdated studies and policies and provided a store far bigger than was needed for Sheringham's status as a small secondary town, and which would draw 45pc of its turnover from Cromer and Holt.

The final word went to Tesco QC Russell Harris who said the "well-orchestrated" Scamrod campaign had persuaded councillors to refuse permission "contrary to every piece of rational expert evidence". He attacked the council's evidence as fundamentally-flawed, "puerile mathematical exercises divorced from reality", and littered with schoolboy errors. A string of experts said the store would stop the flow of shoppers out of town, and would enhance rather than harm the town, where there was no significant evidence that trading was vulnerable. The new LDF could be "obsolete before the ink is dry" because of new government planning guidance, announced during the inquiry, abolishing the requirement to establish need.

Inquiry inspector Christina Downes will return to the town later for a guided tour of the site, and to observe its shopping centre, and traffic, as well as visiting nearby towns, before announcing her decision in a few weeks' time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tesco hearing nears close

Campaigners today made a final impassioned plea to stop a Tesco store being built in their vibrant seaside town.After a decade-long saga of applications and rejection at Sheringham, and a 10-day appeal hearing, opponents of the supermarket outlined their fears. Sheringham Campaign Against Major Retail Overdevelopment spokesman Eroica Mildmay broke down in tears as she said: “We have been trying to save our town and avoid the trauma of watching, through our fingers, as shops drift into decline.” Tesco's scheme for a 1,500 sq m store and 180 parking spaces on the Cromer Road was the biggest development facing the town since railways arrived in the 1890s, she said. Any store would be to the benefit of Tesco, which felt it was acceptable to have some shop closures as a result, rather than the town. That meant shops playing Russian roulette, she said, adding: “It has taken generations to build up the High Street, but it could take just three years to completely undo it.” She attacked the “giantism” of the company, which was now “out of vogue” and should be replaced by more environmentally-friendly local food networks. And she said the level of support for Scamrod, which had taken a 3,000-signature petition to Downing Street, a 900-signature one to the district council, and gathered 1,000 letters, was far higher than the supporting Protesc group which could only muster about 300. Chamber of trade chairman Janet Farrow said the town centre stood to lose nearly £1m worth of trade to Tesco in the first year, which would have a major effect on its vitality, while the extra 13,500 shopping journeys diverted to the town would cause traffic problems, including rat runs along residential roads. They favoured the 750 sq m store being suggested in the emerging local development framework planning policy, because the 1,500 sq m Tesco would be the same retail floorspace as the rest of the town's shops put together. Campaign to Protect Rural England spokesman Ian Shepherd also said the store was too big and would have a devastating effect on Sheringham's economy and small shop feel which was a major attraction to visitors. “Size not only matters in this case but is extremely critical for the character of the town.” This afternoon North Norfolk District Council and Tesco will complete their summings-up. The government-appointed inspector Christina Downes will return to the town on a later date for a guided tour of the site, and to observe its shopping centre, and traffic, as well as going to other nearby supermarket towns including Holt, Stalham and Aylsham. Her decision is expected to be made in six to eight weeks.

Sheringham Tesco inquiry to end today

A 10-day planning inquiry into Tesco's store scheme at Sheringham draws to a close today. It will see all the main parties involved summing up their cases in front of government-appointed inspector Christina Downes, who will then announce her decision in six to eight weeks' time.

The outcome will be a far-reaching one for Sheringham, along with surrounding towns and villages, where public opinion has been vehemently split over the “pros and cons” of the store plan.

Tesco, which is appealing against North Norfolk District Council's refusal of their plans, say their 1,500 sq m store will stop people heading out of Sheringham to do their weekly shop and will bring more spin-off trade to the existing town centre.

Opponents, including town and district councils, traders and a campaign group, say it is too big, in the wrong place, and will suck trade out of the centre harming its vitality, as well as causing traffic congestion on the main coast road.

During the inquiry all the sides have outlined their cases, and cross-examined each other in painstaking detail, and a day and evening were set aside so local people could also air their views.
One of the key issues is whether the decision should reflect the emerging new planning blueprint for Sheringham which advocates a smaller 750 sq m store as more in tune with its needs.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Residents pack Sheringham Tesco inquiry

Residents and traders in a town split by a Tesco store plan turned out in force last night to give their views to the inquiry that will decide its fate. More than 200 people packed into the community centre on the site where a 1,500 sq m store has been refused permission. The evening session to harness local views was delayed by half an hour after it had to move upstairs to a bigger meeting room - and still had people standing, and listening by audio link from an overspill area. Objectors, who turned out in the largest numbers, outlined fears that the Tesco store would kill off existing traders, as seen in other towns like Hunstanton, and would add to traffic congestion on the busy coast road. Business people relayed how visitors were drawn to the resort by its character and old-fashioned atmosphere, which would be ruined by a large supermarket. And speakers called on the inspector, Christina Downes, to uphold the refusal, which had been democratically backed by the town and district councils. Supporters, however, said Sheringham needed to provide a store for modern-day shopping needs in a town where small stores were expensive and offered less choice. Earlier in the day, back at the hearing's regular venue of the district council chamber in Cromer, the Sheringham Campaign Against Major Retail Overdevelopment and local traders - which is leading the opposition - came under attack from resident Paul Norman for "wanting to see Sheringham preserved as a 1950s theme park".He added: "We are not role-playing extras. We are real people who live and work here in the 21st century with all the pressures that involves."Mr Norman said local families, on low local wages, wanted a bigger supermarket, but felt their voice was being swamped by the anti campaigners. And Malcolm Bass said the relentless anti-Tesco campaign had been a "vendetta on the company rather than the development". It was intimidating, "little short of bullying" and put undue pressure on councillors who made the decision. But shops would close if the Tesco store went ahead and drive a final nail into their coffin, said Phil Smith of the Rural Shops Alliance, which represents 7,000 independent traders nationwide. Tesco was "very professional" in the way it ran stores, but also predatory and ruthless when it came to eliminating the competition. It was impossible to have "the best of both worlds" with a new super-market and a vibrant town centre. And the £16m it was claimed would be clawed back into the economy would only "go into the tills of Tesco" at the expense of Morrisons in Cromer. Chamber of trade spokesman from Cromer Tracey Khalil said her town faced losing £10m of trade in the first year of a Tesco opening. It could undermine the 16 years it took to recover from Safeway (now Morri-sons) opening, which was achieved through £12m worth of investment and five years of regeneration. She feared Sheringham was the final piece in a Tesco jigsaw puzzle which saw them turning North Norfolk into Tescoland.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A purge on malls to protect high streets

A shake-up of planning laws designed to curb out-of-town retail parks will safeguard the character of our high streets, it was claimed yesterday.
It is hoped the guidelines will stop the march of bland 'clone towns' as the credit crunch hits small businesses hard. Under the reforms, local authorities will be able to block new developments on sites miles away from town centres if they risk tearing the heart out of existing shopping precincts. Currently, planning chiefs have only to assess whether there is capacity for a superstore before giving the goahead for it to be built. The changes will also require developers to choose town centre sites first, ensure any development does not 'choke existing small businesses or draw valuable trade away from the town' and safeguard the 'unique character of town centres'.
The move, which will be outlined in detail by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears later this week, comes after the Competition Commission revealed supermarkets now hold monopolies in 200 parts of the country. It said it fears this growing domination could lead to higher prices and a poorer range of products and services.
Miss Blears said yesterday: 'We believe small shops are the heart of town centres and local communities. That is why I am taking action to strengthen the planning rules so they better protect our small shops during the credit crunch and keep our high streets vibrant. Popping down to the local grocers or bakery is more than just shopping, it is where people meet and identify with their community. Independent butchers, bakers and booksellers are icons of local pride, giving high streets a style all of their own. Our priority is to ensure we do not see more stretches of the nation's high streets turned into bland 'every towns' where each has the same shops, the look, the same sterile feel. We need more individuality, more small-scale independent shops and a spirit of enterprise on our high streets.'
Consumer campaigners have long argued that the growth in out-of-town shopping malls and hypermarkets, which sell everything from food and clothes to cookware and electrical goods under one roof, is seriously affecting the High Street. In some parts of the country, big stores have even been buying up land in areas where they are already dominant in order to keep out rivals. Small independent retailers are closing at a rate of 2,000 per year, according to the Federation of Small Businesses. A spokesman for the FSB said: 'Town centres are being gradually destroyed. Any proposals which seek to protect their diversity and ensure they get a fair crack of the whip when it comes to planning policies have our full backing.'
The changes will be made to special planning guidance known as 'Planning Policy Statement 6: Planning for Town Centres'.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Priest's Sheringham Tesco store warning

The quaintness of Sheringham as a shopping town and seaside resort could be ruined by a planned Tesco store a long-standing resident told a public inquiry today. Retired clergyman the Rev Douglas Durand said he had seen the town develop into one of the nicest seaside towns in north Norfolk over the past 50 years.“Unfortunately if Tesco is approved all that would be put at risk,” he told a planning appeal as it came to the end of the first of three weeks of sifting through evidence and opinions over the controversial scheme. Tesco is appealing against North Norfolk District Council's refusal of a 2007 store plan, and failure to decide on a similar one four years earlier. Most local folk are due to give their views when the inquiry resumes on Tuesday, either during the routine daytime session starting at 9.30am, or a special evening meeting at 7pm in the community centre, with a mixture of opponents and supporters due to speak. Mr Durand said when Tesco originally submitted its plans in 2003 it did not have supermarkets in either Aylsham or Fakenham. That had now changed, so any store at Sheringham should be smaller as “we don't want north Norfolk to be overloaded with supermarkets.”The 1,500 sq m store at the centre of the inquiry was twice the size of the 750sq m being recommended in the latest emerging planning policy for the town. A large one-stop store would be “devastating” for the local traders in a resort whose attraction was partly down to the “funny little shops which give the town its character.” The store on the Cromer Road would also result in summer gridlock, which would also keep customers away, while people living down side roads feared their roads would become rat runs. There were also issues with the design of the store opposite the town's only, and “very special” listed building, the Roman Catholic church designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott - whose other creations include the Anglian Cathedral in Liverpool, the London power station that is now the Tate Modern, and the red telephone box. Mr Durand said the planning saga over the store in recent years, had done little for public faith in the planning system, and he felt people did not trust Tesco, which he said he “pressurised” the local council into signing a related land deal that stopped the authority selling another possible store site to a rival firm. Tesco's QC Russell Harris said his decision not to cross-examine Mr Durand did not mean he agreed with him, just that he would be tackling the issues later. The rest of the day saw Tesco planning and policy representative Malcolm Alsop being quizzed on his evidence. While opponents say the store will kill the vitality of the town, Tesco's case is that it will stop townsfolk driving to Cromer for their weekly shop, and bring in more people who would provide a positive spin off for other town traders.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Residents hit out at Tesco in noise row

RESIDENTS in a Sheffield suburb have condemned supermarket giant Tesco for ruining their quality of life with disruptive delivery lorries. People living near the Tesco Express store on Abbeydale Road South at Totley Rise say the store has blighted their life with huge, noisy lorries often clogging up local streets.It comes as councillors at Sheffield Council agreed to allow the store to receive deliveries on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Under the terms of the store's original planning consent deliveries on Sundays and Bank Holiday were prohibited - to allow locals to have some peace and quiet. But the store argued it had to have deliveries on these days too to keep it well stocked. The move was opposed by Sheffield Hallam MP and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, a 173-name petition and the council received 55 letters of objection. Brian Stubbs, aged 61, of Devonshire Road, who lives around the corner from the store, told the meeting: "Tesco seems to be like a magnet. It is almost like they are giving food away free. People come from all around."Planning officer Chris Heeley said the suggested changes were a "reasonable compromise". But the meeting's chairman suggested amending the proposed changes to 10.30am to 6.30pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays, with Monday to Saturday deliveries as originally proposed, and the suggestion was carried. Mr Stubbs condemned the decision and said: "Who will police this? Tesco just do what they like."It is not just about the noise of deliveries, it is about parking. People park on double yellow lines, on verges, but when the big delivery lorries are there it is just much, much worse."Neighbour Ian Cockburn, 60, also of Devonshire Road, added: "Tesco has dramatically altered our quality of life. It's pathetic."

Sheringham Tesco hearing under way

A new Tesco store is vital for the future of Sheringham to halt its gentle decline and stop food shoppers driving out of town.
Or it could be the beginning of the end and suck the life out of the vibrant seaside resort's town centre.
The two sides of the long-running argument were outlined yesterday on the opening day of a major planning inquiry into a store scheme. It is a debate which has split local opinion for 10 years. Now, over the next 10 days, the bones will be picked over again by sharp-suited lawyers, experts and concerned locals keen to ensure their voice is heard by government inspector Christina Downes, whose decision should be known six to eight weeks after the hearing finishes.
Tesco is appealing against North Norfolk District Council's failure to decide a 2003 store plan, and refusal of a similar 2007 one. The company's QC Russell Harris said its 1,500 sq m store was “an opportunity, not a threat” which would enhance rather than harm the town's vitality.

His claim that Sheringham was “still vibrant but in gentle decline as a result of the absence of any significant investment over the past 10 years” drew shouts of “rubbish” from a packed public gallery - prompting the inspector to remind them it was a formal inquiry hearing, not a “theatre”.

Tesco also said the positive impact had been mentioned in expert advice which had been “airbrushed” from the council's case. Mr Harris said the council's reversal of a previous statement - saying it would not object to one of the appeals - was “close to bizarre”.

Council barrister James Strachan said the Tesco store would double the amount of food shopping floorspace in Sheringham and account for a quarter of all the shop floorspace in the town. The size was inappropriate for the need, and could see the closure of the local Co-op store, its “generic” design was poor for a main gateway to the town, and extra traffic could cause congestion on the busy coast road.

Chamber of trade chairman Janet Farrow, who feared it could spell “the beginning of the end”, said traders accepted there was a need for more grocery shopping in Sheringham but opposed the size and location of the Tesco plan.

Eroica Mildmay from the Sheringham Campaign Against Major Retail Overdevelopment, was concerned the town would face the “slow death” suffered by other centres hit by supermarkets, and would become another “bleak” clone town, adding: “It will suck the life out of the town.”

Local businessman Richard Hewitt said there was no justification or reason to take a gamble with Sheringham over the Tesco plan.

In the morning there were parking problems outside the council headquarters at Cromer, but by the afternoon, when the evidence turned to nitty gritty retail impact argument, the public gallery had virtually disappeared. It is planned to run the inquiry 9.30am to 5.30pm on most days, but a 9am start on Fridays, and an evening session at Sheringham next Tuesday to help local people attend.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Environmental campaigners are claiming that a public inquiry due to begin today in Norfolk will be a test of the ability of local councillors and residents to prevent what they see as damaging supermarket developments. The inquiry will look into plans by Tesco to build a store close to the seaside town of Sheringham. The Campaign to Protect Rural England says the result could have implications across the country.
At the hearing, which is expected to last for three weeks, the company is challenging a decision by North Norfolk District Councillors, who in December unanimously voted to turn down an application for redevelopment of a site on the edge of the town. CPRE is supporting residents and local campaign groups opposed to the development.
Tom Oliver, Head of Rural Policy at the Campaign said, “This is a crucial moment in the struggle by local people to decide for themselves what kind of place they will live in and how their town develops in the future.” He added that the case was about people having a real choice and not allowing big businesses to dominate their way of life.
During the inquiry Ian Shepherd, Planning Policy Co-ordinator at CPRE in Norfolk, will be giving evidence and he emphasised the wider importance of the hearing. “This public inquiry could be critical, not just for the future of Sheringham, but as a case study for other inappropriate and unwelcome supermarket developments,” he said.
Mr. Shepherd said local people and councillors had consistently expressed their opposition to Tesco’s proposals and felt a new supermarket could cause serious damage to the vitality and viability of the town centre. “The small independent retailers, which give Sheringham so much of its appeal and character, could suffer, as well as the wider Norfolk economy, including local suppliers and tourism,” he added.

Sheringham Tesco Inquiry Starts

The Public Inquiry into Tesco's application to build a store in Sheringham begins at the North Norfolk District Council offices in Cromer at 10am on Tuesday 1 July. The inquiry, chaired by a Planning Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State, is expected to last for three weeks.
The inquiry will take place in the Council Chamber, and seats for members of the public wishing to observe or speak during the proceedings will be limited by the fire regulations that apply to the room. Therefore anyone hoping to speak is particularly advised to arrive in good time before the start of the hearing. It should also be noted that filming or recording of the proceedings will not be allowed by the Inspector.
A second inquiry, concerning proposed residential development for Norfolk Homes at Cromer Road, North Walsham, is also being held on 1 July. Since car parking at the Council offices is limited it will be available on a strictly first come, first served basis. Parking is available nearby and elsewhere in the town of Cromer.
As the Council offices will be very busy before 10am on 1 July, anyone not concerned with the planning inquiries is advised that if they can they should delay their visit until later in the day.