Sheringham defeats Tesco with vote for Clive Hay-Smith’s eco-store
Sheringham, in Norfolk, has held out for 14 years against the advances of the all-conquering supermarket. Yesterday, against expectations and the advice of the town’s planning officials, the forces of Tesco were routed.
Instead of a Tesco in the town centre, North Norfolk District Council planning committee voted in favour of an eco-friendly community project dreamt up by a local farmer.
It may seem an unlikely result, but opponents of the supermarket had a secret weapon: the local farmer was not quite all that he appeared. Clive Hay-Smith, 52, was indeed engaged in a spot of agriculture when he became involved in the fight against Tesco. Before running a farm, however, he had been running a branch of Pearson, the media empire.
After serving as president of the group’s assessment and testing division he retired from the City and moved back to Sheringham, his boyhood home, in search of a more peaceful existence. Instead, Mr Hay-Smith was pitched into what some regarded as a struggle for the very identity of the market town, a place with a high street that seemed to hail from an earlier era, full of butchers, bakers, fishmongers and grocers. His solution to the Tesco problem was to fight fire with fire, and so he proposed to build another supermarket on the outskirts of town.
The Greenhouse Country Store would be the greenest supermarket ever built: with solar panels, rainwater harvesting, eco-friendly refrigeration methods, a sedum plant roof and an electric bus service. Food would be sourced locally and, next door, Mr Hay-Smith would build the Norfolk Food Academy to teach nutrition and cooking skills.
If he won, Sheringham could become a rallying cry for groups across the country fighting the incursions of the supermarkets.
“Tesco has run up against someone with the time, the money and the inclination — certainly the inclination — to take it on,” he said.
He needed some help, however. In December he announced that the store would be run by Waitrose, a move that some of his allies seemed to regard as tantamount to a pact with the devil.
Yesterday, in spite of their doubts and the concerns of planners, he prevailed. “It was a very brave decision for Sheringham’s future,” he said afterwards.
Tesco expressed surprise. “Planning officers made it clear that the Waitrose application would be detrimental to Sheringham town centre and local shops,” said a spokesman.
“The council itself has announced that it will be seeking further independent legal advice on the legality of the decision.”
The battle for Sheringham may not be over quite yet.