A “talk to the locals
” plea has been sent to Tesco as it redraws its controversial plans for a store at Sheringham. The message comes from the top officer at North Norfolk District Council, which has taken the usual step of making its feelings known in an open letter to Tesco's boss. But it crossed in the e-mail post with a press release from Tesco saying they had already been talking to the locals, hundreds of whom were in favour of a new store. The exchange however has highlighted the fierce divide caused by the saga, with anti big store protestors saying Tesco's claims were meaningless because they did not seek views on the size and location of the supermarket. Council chief executive Philip Burton today called on the retailer to consult a wide cross section of people including opponents and supporters of their scheme. The move follows Tesco's recent announcement they were going back to the drawing board, and hiring award-winning architects to devise a smaller and better looking store on the Cromer Road following years of applications, debates, decisions and appeals that has split local opinion. In the letter penned to Tesco chief Sir Terry Leahy and copied to the local media, Mr Burton said the council had been approached by a number of community representatives asking how they could contribute to the development of the plans during their formative stages. The council encouraged Tesco to engage directly with local community organisations in the development of revised proposals in the hope that a “stronger degree of community support might be secured for any new proposal.” He hoped Tesco would see the “positive benefits” of such an approach. Explaining the move Mr Burton said there was a requirement for Tesco to engage with the community as part of the planning process, but it was felt that, because of the controversial nature of the proposals, there was a need to start earlier than when draft plans were on the table. It was taking the initiative however in its role as community leaders. Tesco spokesman Nick Gellatly said the company was “delighted” to receive the letter as it was “vital the voice of Sheringham people is heard in this debate”. He added that Tesco would be happy to discuss its thoughts with any community organisation or “individual of good will” who could contact him by e-mailing email@example.com
It came as the company announced that 1,200 people - 900 responding to a local leaflet and 300 signing up to a We Want Tesco in Sheringham site on the Facebook social networking internet site - supported a new supermarket. But Eroica Mildmay, chairman of the Sheringham Campaign Against Major Retail Overdevelopment, said the claim was misleading as the question only asked if people favoured a new supermarket.“So do we, but the devil is in the detail of where the location and size. It's like offering a snake and not saying whether it is a harmless grass snake or a venomous viper,” she added.