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Priest's Sheringham Tesco store warning

PUBLISHED: 13:33 04 July 2008 | UPDATED: 09:01 13 July 2010

Richard Batson

The quaintness of Sheringham as a shopping town and seaside resort could be ruined by a planned Tesco store a long-standing resident told a public inquiry today.

The quaintness of Sheringham as a shopping town and seaside resort could be ruined by a planned Tesco store a long-standing resident told a public inquiry today.

Retired clergyman the Rev Douglas Durand said he had seen the town develop into one of the nicest seaside towns in north Norfolk over the past 50 years.

“Unfortunately if Tesco is approved all that would be put at risk,” he told a planning appeal as it came to the end of the first of three weeks of sifting through evidence and opinions over the controversial scheme.

Tesco is appealing against North Norfolk District Council's refusal of a 2007 store plan, and failure to decide on a similar one four years earlier.

Most local folk are due to give their views when the inquiry resumes on Tuesday, either during the routine daytime session starting at 9.30am, or a special evening meeting at 7pm in the community centre, with a mixture of opponents and supporters due to speak.

Mr Durand said when Tesco originally submitted its plans in 2003 it did not have supermarkets in either Aylsham or Fakenham. That had now changed, so any store at Sheringham should be smaller as “we don't want north Norfolk to be overloaded with supermarkets.”

The 1,500 sq m store at the centre of the inquiry was twice the size of the 750sq m being recommended in the latest emerging planning policy for the town.

A large one-stop store would be “devastating” for the local traders in a resort whose attraction was partly down to the “funny little shops which give the town its character.”

The store on the Cromer Road would also result in summer gridlock, which would also keep customers away, while people living down side roads feared their roads would become rat runs.

There were also issues with the design of the store opposite the town's only, and “very special” listed building, the Roman Catholic church designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott - whose other creations include the Anglian Cathedral in Liverpool, the London power station that is now the Tate Modern, and the red telephone box.

Mr Durand said the planning saga over the store in recent years, had done little for public faith in the planning system, and he felt people did not trust Tesco, which he said he “pressurised” the local council into signing a related land deal that stopped the authority selling another possible store site to a rival firm.

Tesco's QC Russell Harris said his decision not to cross-examine Mr Durand did not mean he agreed with him, just that he would be tackling the issues later.

The rest of the day saw Tesco planning and policy representative Malcolm Alsop being quizzed on his evidence. While opponents say the store will kill the vitality of the town, Tesco's case is that it will stop townsfolk driving to Cromer for their weekly shop, and bring in more people who would provide a positive spin off for other town traders.

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