Supermarket giant Tesco
is seeking to double the size of its Stalham store so it can compete better with neighbouring supermarkets. The move comes just days after the company's bid to build a new store at Sheringham was rejected by a planning inspector. But Tesco was quick to stress that the Stalham scheme was not linked to the defeat - and that the Sheringham refusal, on the grounds a new 1,500 sq m store would permanently damage the town centre - was not relevant. Spokesman Nick Gellatly said: “The inspector's decision confirms that she visited other town centres including Stalham and found that they had different characteristics and thus the circumstances were not comparable”. Tesco built its current 1,300 sq m store six years ago with 189 parking spaces. Now it wants to nearly double the store and provide 362 spaces. The company said its original scheme was based on the size flagged up in a council design brief, but that “the proof of the pudding” in trading had shown it was not big enough in size or the range of goods to meet customers' needs. It needed to be more like the North Walsham Sainsbury store in size. There was a huge outcry over the original Tesco scheme, and opponents have claimed it killed off high street shops. But the company argued that the closures were down to a decline in the town caused by the death of its cattle market, and that the Tesco was actually helping it recover. Eric Lindo, chairman of the area's regeneration group, the Stalham with Happing Partnership, agreed, saying the store had already brought 85 jobs to the town and was its biggest employer, while demand for town centre shops was the highest in years. There were still opponents, but he felt the expansion would bring benefits including road and landscaping improvements. Tesco's extension using the old abattoir land which they bought several years ago will mean relocating the access road to the store and town centre, to include a roundabout on the A149, improving safety. Mr Gellatly said the latest plans, which followed a similar scheme floated two years ago, had now addressed issues such as the road junction. Before submitting such a major planning application this autumn Tesco has to consult the community, and will be staging an exhibition in the Baptist Church Hall, Lower High Street, on September 26 and 27 - from 2.30-6 on the Friday and 10-2 on the Saturday. Town council chairman Tony Ross-Benham said Stalham had come to terms with the current-sized Tesco, but it remained to be seen what people would think of it doubling.Shops had changed in the centre, but because of a variety of reasons. The high street now seemed to be “mostly let and ticking over.”But some shopkeepers would doubtless be concerned about what other goods the expanded store would sell.