Public vote move in Sheringham store saga

Richard BatsonPeople in Sheringham look set to get a chance to vote on a long-running supermarket saga.Richard Batson

People in Sheringham look set to get a chance to vote on a long-running supermarket saga.

Moves are afoot to stage a parish poll on the thorny question which has divided the community - just as the decade-long debate looked set to come to a conclusion.

Tesco's years of trying to build a store on the Cromer Road have been rejected by planning councillors, contrary to officer recommendations but in line with local fears it would damage the vibrant town centre. They voted instead for a more recent rival Greenhouse Community Project scheme which combines a Waitrose run store with an educational food academy.

The decision is currently in limbo while complaints about the conduct of councillors at the decision meeting back in March are investigated.

But local residents are being asked to back calls for a poll, which will be discussed at a public meeting to be held at Sheringham High School on Thursday September 2 at 8pm.

The outcome of a poll carries no legal weight, but would go some way to answering long-running claims and counterclaims by the rival sides over levels of support for their schemes.

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Town mayor Doug Smith said the meeting was being called due to overwhelming requests for a local referendum.

The gathering would decide whether to press ahead with a vote - which could be as soon as September 23, the same day a by election to fill a vacant town council seat. It would also decide the wording of the questions - with only people on the Sheringham electoral register able to vote.

'There seems to be some kind of deadlock and people feel frustrated. This will give a very clear indication of what the people of Sheringham want to have. The poll will focus the minds of district councillors and will be have to be considered properly,' he added.

Mr Smith said he had also asked the district council to delay any final confirmation of a decision until the outcome of the poll was known.

The cost, estimated to be about �3,000, would be picked up by local taxpayer. And he stressed it would have to be about land use, not the companies or personalities involved.

Greenhouse project leader Clive Hay Smith welcomed the poll as a positive and democratic move that was 'late in the day but will allow real people to have a real say' amid the 'opaque' planning process. It would show whether Tesco had as many supporters as they claimed.

Tesco spokesman Michael Kissman said: 'It is clear to everyone that there is and always has been strong support for Tesco in Sheringham. However, planning applications should be decided on planning grounds and our proposals clearly passed those standards when experts last looked at them.'