The Sheringham store wars battle has taken yet another twist.
Councillors will have to meet again to clarify the reasons behind their surprise supermarket decision at Sheringham. Members of North Norfolk District Council's planning committee went against officers' recommendations when they backed an edge-of-town, eco-friendly Waitrose store and refused a Tesco scheme earlier this month. But there were concerns about the muddled reasoning voiced by councillors at the time. A legal expert has said the decisions would be legally sound providing the reasons were not "perverse or irrational" and were "properly articu-lated". However, barrister James Strachan said the minutes of the meeting did not provide that clarity.Planning officials advised refusal of the Greenhouse Community Project store - which would be run by Waitrose - in Weybourne Road, partly because it went against retail development policy that favoured sites nearer the town centre. But councillors voted 10-6 to approve the store and reject Tesco's store plan for Cromer Road. Their reasons included the failure to give enough weight to the ethos and sustainability of the Waitrose scheme, while Tesco's would harm the town centre and had an incompatible design. However, the reasons for breaking policy had "not yet been articulated by the committee", according to a council report, which says the committee must meet again to reconsider the two applications. And, next Thursday, the committee will be asked to confirm the minutes of the decision-taking meeting on March 4. Head of planning Steve Oxenham said a full debate of the reasons would take place at a special meeting to be called later, when the committee would seek to provide the necessary clarity. It is the latest twist in a long and often bitter saga about supermarket development at Sheringham. Tesco has been seeking a store in the town since 1996, and hoped its revised plans for Cromer Road would answer concerns arising from previous refusals. Yet it continued to face fierce opposition from opponents fearful that it would damage the existing, vibrant town centre. Tesco spokesman Nick Gellatly said: "It was clear from the outset that the decision by the council did not fit with either local or national planning policy, and there was public outcry as a result of this."We welcome the decision to revisit this issue as there must be greater clarity on why the council made the choice it did, particularly when it runs counter to the recommendations from their officers. "Landowner Clive Hay-Smith's more recent rival plan near the Splash pool aimed to provide an alternative store with green credentials, with local food sourcing, electric deliv-ery vehicles and shopper buses, plus a linked food academy. He was not available for comment but has previously praised councillors for their decision, which his lawyers had checked and believed to be legally sound.