1,000 sign petition over Tesco plan

A petition with around 1,000 signatures against an extension to the Stalham branch of Tesco has been put together in the past fortnight in one of the town's stores.

Tesco's plans to more than double the size of its Stalham store has triggered a protest petition signed by 1,000 people.

The retail giant outlined details of its scheme at the weekend and talked of aiming to open a new-look store by the end of next year.

But while the company felt there was “very strong support from most people” who visited its two-day exhibition, opponents have been queuing up to register their concerns.

A petition with around 1,000 signatures has been collected in just two weeks, objecting to the store extension because it would “further damage the vitality, viability and diversity of Stalham town centre.”

One of the organisers, local shopkeeper Nigel Dowdney, who campaigns at a national level through his membership of the Association of Convenience Stores, also said Tesco could struggle to get permission to use the former abattoir site they need for their extension.

“They will need a change of use from employment land to retail and I think there is a good chance they won't get that, especially as it is listed in the local development framework as employment land - and that is a strong document,” said Mr Dowdney.

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Tesco wants to extend its six year old 1,400sq m store by another 1,600sq m, and increase car parking from 198 to 360 spaces. The scheme, which it says will bring jobs and spin off prosperity to other town shops, also involves building a re-jigged access road - to the store and town - from a new roundabout on the A149.

The company believe their store needs to be of a much similar size to other outlets in neighbouring towns, such as the Sainsbury in North Walsham.

Mr Dowdney said claims of new jobs being brought to the town failed to take into account the jobs that would be lost if the expansion went ahead. He also said Tesco had claimed the expansion would have a beneficial effect on the community, but had provided no evidence to support this claim.

His views are in contrast to the rather more supportive comments which initially came from the local town council and regeneration partnership.

The display and consultation session had to be carried out by Tesco ahead of officially lodging its plans for a major project.

Afterwards company spokesman Nick Gellatly said the company was delighted with the 250-strong turnout and felt there was “very strong support from most local people”.

He added: “Our customers understand the need to expand the range and choice here and improve product availability.

“Many told us they currently travel to other supermarkets elsewhere to complete their weekly shop.”

The meeting with retailers was also helpful, he added, and it had raised specific issues about the existing operation and how the extension plans might help get more people onto the High Street.

This included better signage to other shops and the treatment of land Tesco had recently bought between the store entrance and the adjacent High Street.

“We have agreed to look at these issues in more detail before we submit the planning application,” said Mr Gellatly.