Pro-Tesco campaigners rally troops

Supporters backing Tesco's bid for a store at Sheringham are trying to rally their troops, as the company restates the community and 'green' benefits of its planned supermarket.

Fifty invited people attended a meeting in the town aimed at getting pro-Tesco campaigners to meet and pool their efforts.

Organiser Jono Read said: 'We felt there had not been a chance for pro-Tesco supporters to meet in person rather than on Facebook to express their views.

'The general message was that the only way to fight is to take action through a campaign rather than individually.'

A decision is expected next month when plans by both Tesco and the rival Greenhouse Community Project store, which would be run by Waitrose, are due to be reconsidered by North Norfolk District Council's development control committee.

Tesco has been striving to build a store in the town for 14 years, against some fierce local opposition but has been rejected several times, while the more recent rival Greenhouse scheme was approved in March, against officers recommendations. The decision has however been on hold while officers checked it was legally sound, and complaints about the conduct of some councillors were investigated.

The Sheringham meeting of supporters had a presentation from Tesco corporate affairs manager Louise Gosling, who said afterwards the company could have given up on their battle to located a store there, but was determined to carry on because of feedback from local people saying they wanted a store.

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'As long as there are people who want us we won't give up,' she added.

The rival scheme has promoted its linked food academy and green credentials, but Tesco was already doing similarly - having opened a zero carbon store and promoting store champions to look out for community opportunities which included food education in schools.

The meeting had urged Tesco to be more aggressive in its campaigning, but Miss Gosling said the company preferred to present 'plans and facts rather than tit-for-tat arguments.'

Its plans also included a new fire station and community centre which already had planning permission, and would provide 14 affordable homes plus �1.2m for the council's housing policy coffers.

She accepted that there were some people who were against Tesco and would 'never change their minds', but was concerned that some had resorted to anti-Tesco graffiti on the boarding around the fire station site.

A parish poll to gauge local opinion in Sheringham is due to take place on September 30 with 6,000 voters being asked three questions to find out if they supported the Tesco or Waitrose plans, or favoured no supermarket at all.

Tesco tried to get the wording of one of questions changed claiming they did not compare like with like, but has been told by the mayor Doug Smith that cannot be done as they were agreed at a public meeting.