Decision day for Sheringham store plans

Richard BatsonRival plans for a supermarket at Sheringham will go head to head at a crunch council meeting on March 4.The face-off is between two big high street names - one which has been targeting the town for 14 years, the other and newcomer to the battle.Richard Batson

Tesco looks set to win the store wars battle to build a supermarket at Sheringham, it emerged as the News went to press.

Next Thursday's crunch council meeting to decide on two rival plans is being recommended to approve Tesco's long running plans and refuse the newer Greenhouse-Waitrose scheme.

A report to planning councillors says the council's retail expert confirmed there was only a need for one store.

And officers are recommending approval of the Tesco option on Cromer Road, with conditions to include highway improvements, and restrictions of the total sales area and ratio of food to other goods.

The Greenhouse scheme on Weybourne Road is earmarked for refusal as it failed to show it was the best 'sequentially available site' closest to the town centre, was poorly served by public transport, would harm the town centre, and was against national and local planning policies.

North Norfolk District Council's planning committee - which has gone against officers' recommendations in the past on this issue - will debate the pros and cons of each scheme on March 4 at a special meeting starting at 9.30am.

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Tesco has been trying to build a store in the resort since 1996 in the face of fierce opposition from traders and town councillors who fear it will harm the existing vibrant town centre - a view upheld by a planning inspector who rejected an appeal by the retail giant, and also tagged the design 'mundane.'

It has come back with revised plans featuring a store that is a fifth smaller, moved closer to the town centre, and designed by renowned architects who created Tyneside's 'winking eye' footbridge.

Waitrose would run a store promoted last year by local businessman Clive Hay-Smith in a bid to provide an alternative to Tesco. It would have electric delivery vehicles and shoppers buses, and be linked to plans for a neighbouring Norfolk Food Academy teaching cookery and food understanding.

It is on an allotment site given in a land swap with the town council which has created 200 new allotments.

It is a decision which will have far-reaching impact on the future of the town, and which has seen it split into vocal factions in the past.

Tesco argues its store is needed to stop the majority of locals driving to supermarkets in neighbouring towns for their big weekly shop, and that Sheringham would benefit from spin-off trade as people walked through to the town centre from free three-hour parking - particularly as the Tesco scheme is 150m from the town centre, while the Waitrose one is 1km away.

The Greenhouse scheme says it also aims to provide for the weekly shop, with an emphasis on local quality food, and a range of goods designed to complement rather than cripple the local economy. It wanted to prevent Sheringham becoming 'another Tesco town' while the sale of the store to Waitrose would bolster a community fund supporting local projects.