Save our Sheringham - Say NO to Tesco

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Woolworths closure could save Sheringham

Towns across north Norfolk are bracing themselves for the loss of their Woolworths shops as the familiar high street name heads towards closure. Across the country the retail giant - a year short of its centenary - is facing the shutdown of up to 800 stores and loss of 30,000 jobs after no one was prepared to take on the chain of shops and its £380m debt. Locally, the figures are smaller but the impact just as big. The loss of the long-standing stores would result in the loss of scores of jobs across towns in north Norfolk - at Cromer, North Walsham, Sheringham - and leave gaping holes in prime shopping locations. North Norfolk District Council spokesman for economic matters Clive Stockton said: “Woolworths has been part of the genetic make-up of small towns for nearly 100 years.“It loss is not just economic, it is psychological, and yet another blow to things we thought were stable, like post offices and the banks.” The council would step in where it could to help people who lost their jobs with matters such as preparing a CV and finding new skills through learning centres, but otherwise there was little it could do, he added. Woolworths sites were too big for small, private retailers and too small for larger national chains such as Marks and Spencer. And having them turned into supermarkets might not necessarily be what was needed for every town centre. At Sheringham, however, it might provide a solution to the long-running battle to find a suitable site for a larger supermarket in town. Tesco's decade-long battle to build a new store is awaiting the company's high court challenge of a government inspector's decision to uphold refusal of planning permission. One of the problems has been the lack of suitable more central sites, but if the Woolworths store becomes available it could add a new twist to that particular debateChamber of Trade chairman Janet Farrow said: “Woolworths is an institution. It would be sad to see them go from the High Street but it seems inevitable. But there could be a silver lining for the town, if a grocery store could go in there. It is too soon to jump in just yet, but it is something we would be proactive on - and would alert supermarket companies, including Tesco, to the availability.”