Save our Sheringham - Say NO to Tesco

Thursday, June 03, 2010

New twist in Sheringham supermarket saga

A complaint against a councillor which is holding up the latest stage of the Sheringham supermarket saga was submitted by the authority's chief executive, it has been revealed. North Norfolk District Council's top officer Philip Burton handed in a 27-page confidential document - seen by the EDP - outlining concerns about the conduct of Candy Sheridan, who represents Stalham. The authority last night said its chief executive's role was a matter of convention and did not necessarily reflect his personal concerns. The complaint, dated March 31, relates to Ms Sheridan's behaviour during a meeting on March 4 to decide who should be given permission to develop a supermarket in Sheringham. A committee voted against the recommendations of officers to give the go-ahead to the Greenhouse Community Project, which would be run by Waitrose, and rejected the latest application by Tesco. The decision is set to be discussed again by the planning committee - because of fears it would not stand up to a legal challenge - but that has been put on hold while a number of complaints against councillors, including Ms Sheridan, are investigated. Last night, district council spokesman Nick Manthorpe explained the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 imposed an “absolute duty” on the authority's monitoring officer to ensure serious allegations against any councillor were properly investigated. He added: “By convention in these circumstances the actual complaint to the standards committee is made by the chief executive.” Mr Manthorpe said the council would be breaking the law if it was to reveal any of the details of four complaints made against three councillors unless and until they came before a standards committee panel hearing. Mr Burton's code of conduct complaint form was passed to the EDP by Eroica Mildmay, chairman of Sheringham Campaign Against Major Retail Overdevelopment (Scamrod). She has now received a letter from the district council telling her the authority is seeking legal advice over how her organisation came to have the confidential documents. It follows a letter sent to the authority by Ms Mildmay and Reg Grimes, chairman of the Sheringham and District Preservation Society, giving their views on the complaint. Last night Scamrod's chairman called the letter a “threat” and branded it “ridiculous”. She added: “The important thing for me is that they have not dealt with any of my issues. They have decided to turn around and shoot the messenger and try to intimidate me.” Ms Mildmay refused to reveal who had leaked the confidential complaint document. Mr Manthorpe said: “The documents in question are restricted to a small number of relevant people, who are all aware that they are to be kept confidential, by law. We cannot speculate or comment further without potentially prejudicing any investigation.” Ms Sheridan announced she was the subject of an ongoing investigation in April when she had to leave a planning meeting while the supermarket saga was discussed.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Sheringham supermarket battle in limbo

The great supermarket debate which has engulfed Sheringham for many years looks set to remain in limbo until legal advice is received about the implications of complaints against councillors. As reported previously in the EDP, councillors at North Norfolk District Council decided in March to back the Waitrose supermarket aspect of the wider Greenhouse Community Project on the outskirts of town and refuse permission for the town centre Tesco plan. As also reported at the time, that decision could still be overruled if it turns out, as council officers fear, to have been made on shaky grounds which could be challenged legally. Almost three months on and that situation remains unresolved. A statement from the Greenhouse Community Project, which is being headed by Clive Hay Smith said project members and partners "continued to be frustrated by the apparent reluctance of the council to ratify the democratic decision taken by elected members" in early March. The statement said this was espec-ially frustrating given that the council's external legal advice accorded with the project's own independent advice from leading counsel. They also said complaints against councillors appeared to feature "trumped-up charges" and added: "We are watching this situation very closely and will be taking further legal advice to ensure the democratic process is not abused." Meanwhile, Nick Gellatly of Tesco said: "It is nearly three months since the planning committee took the decision to go against the advice of their officers, consultants as well as local and national planning policy." Mr Gellatly said he was sure many local people would be as disappointed as he was that delays continued." However, we understand that the council must take care to reach proper and justifiable decisions, but hope that they will be able to name the date for a decision at the earliest possible opportunity. "Council spokesman Nick Manthorpe said: "We have sought, and are awaiting, legal advice on the implications of the four standards complaints against three councillors involved in making the decision in March. We need to know whether and how those issues might affect the validity of that decision. We need that legal advice before we can know how to move forward and determine these important applications."