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.