North Norfolk faces life without Woolies

Across North Norfolk towns are now coming to terms with the empty and distressing sight of deserted, stripped out and tatty looking Woolworths stores.But among the gloom some feelings were expressed that it may not all be bad news.

Across North Norfolk towns are now coming to terms with the empty and distressing sight of deserted, stripped out and tatty looking Woolworths stores.

But among the gloom some feelings were expressed that it may not all be bad news.

In CROMER, chairman of the Past, Present and Future group Peter Stibbons encouraged a certain level of optimism…'I think as a town we have to wait a little bit to see what action there is on a national level,' said Mr Stibbons.

'But if you look at these market town sites, they must surely still be considered valuable - and I would not be surprised to see a national initiative particularly when it comes to the future of the town sites.'

The distinction between the future value of town sites and city suburb sites was a key issue, said Mr Stibbons, simply because the former had always been busy before the latest set of problems in the economy.

'In some areas Woolworths clearly had problems before the autumn, but in our Norfolk market towns they always seemed to be busy places of trade.

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'So I think one always has to be optimistic - they are prime, prestigious sites with such good potential and you would think something positive ought to happen.

'And the Cromer site has the additional benefit of being close to the Meadow car park.'

In SHERINGHAM Mike Crowe, chairman of SheringhamPlus, said the sad demise of Woolworths could potentially end up with a positive outcome.

'Everybody in the town is upset and disappointed,' said Mr Crowe.

'I can't remember exactly how long Woolworths has been here, but it feels as if it has always been part of Sheringham.

'It has been a fundamental set point in the town, a shop for everybody, both tourists and locals.

'The loss is considerable, not just for the community but for those employed there.'

But Mr Crowe said the site could feasibly solve the ongoing Sheringham supermarket battle, which has dragged on for more than a decade.

'I would have thought it an ideal site for a decent grocery store, which everyone knows is what we need.

'It is a good size and would most probably satisfy the demands both of the pro Tesco and anti Tesco groups.

'It is in the town centre and not of an overpowering size, so this could all end up being beneficial in the long run. After all, we need to look at things positively.'

But at NORTH WALSHAM, the closure was viewed more gloomily. Mike Jones, development manager at the regeneration body the Griffon Area Partnership, described the closure as 'another nail in the coffin' of a struggling town.

'The town is already looking down at heel, if it's not filled relatively quickly it will contribute to the cumulative effect of other closures.

'We have the former Holburn garage on the edge of town and the old laundry empty, plus several empty shops in the town centre.

'North Walsham needs a shot in the arm at the moment, not a significant closure like this.'

Plans to bring a town centre manager to North Walsham had so far failed because of funding difficulties, said Mr Jones, but further moves were about to be made in an attempt to secure the right monies.

If this were to happen, the benefits could be significant in terms of filling empty properties, he added.

With no positive news about who might take over the Woolworths site speculation was rife in the town and when asked whether it was interested in the site Roys of Wroxham issued a statement saying: 'Roys have been established in North Walsham for almost 17 years. Whilst Roys has had a good year overall, we have no comment to make in relation to speculation about potential sites for new stores.

'If any Woolworths staff in North Walsham would like to apply for vacancies at our North Walsham or Hoveton stores, please contact Val Betts on 01603 777066 for an application form.'

North Walsham Chamber of Trade chairman Colin Page said: 'Various names have been mentioned and a lot of people are talking about Roys.

'Woolworths is in the best position in North Walsham. Personally, of the ones I've heard linked to the Woolworths site, I think Roys would be the best option for North Walsham. The town sadly lacks a department store and they're a local firm which tends to employ local people.'

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