Supermarket chain Waitrose is determined to open a store in north Norfolk
, either at Sheringham or elsewhere, says a company boss.
The retailer has thrown its hat into the ring of the town's “store wars” planning battle with rivals Tesco which has split the community in a sometimes bitter war of words and which now looks likely to be decided next month. Waitrose would operate an eco-friendly Greenhouse Project store on the Weybourne Road promoted by local landowner Clive Hay-Smith as an alternative to Tesco's long-running plans on the Cromer Road. The Greenhouse scheme, which would feature electric delivery vehicles and shopper buses, is also linked to a Norfolk Food Academy that would promote cookery and food knowledge next door.
Waitrose's development director Nigel Keen said the company did not want to “get embroiled in spats which have occurred previously. But he said Waitrose had been looking at Sheringham as a possible store venue for “some time,” but felt Tesco had the “dominant position”. When it was approached by Mr Hay-Smith, “some months ago” the scheme matched the company's green and local food sourcing credentials, as well as policies of supporting local farmers and running cooking schools, which it does at its stores in Southend and Cheltenham. “We felt we should support it to give Sheringham people another option. We would like to be close to the town centre but that is not possible. The people of Sheringham will look at both schemes. It is not for us to get into a debate about who is the best operator. If this site doesn't happen we will be disappointed because it is a chance to provide something for the community,” he said, adding that if refused the company would continue to look for sites in Sheringham and other towns.
Waitrose, which is part of the John Lewis group, has 223 stores across the UK, including at Norwich, Wymondham and Swaffham.
The Greenhouse scheme has planning policy hurdles to leap because of its location on the edge of town, while Tesco is hoping its revised plans with improved designs, and moving the store closer to existing shops, will overcome previous objections including potential impact on the existing town centre.
The provisional date for a decision by North Norfolk District Council's planning committee is now March 4.