Rival bid for Sheringham store

Richard BatsonA vision for pioneering green grocery store, delivering shopping by electric vehicles and ploughing a percentage of profits back into the community, has put another twist in Sheringham's long-running supermarket saga.Richard Batson

A vision for pioneering green grocery store, delivering shopping by electric vehicles and ploughing a percentage of profits back into the community, has put another twist in Sheringham's long-running supermarket saga.

The unique idea has been hatched by a local landowner and retired businessman who feels the community 'deserves better' than the controversial plans for the town by retail giants Tesco.

And Clive Hay-Smith has revealed his scheme on the eve of Tesco's public consultation on a revised scheme seeking to overcome public and planners' previous concerns about bland design and the impact on the town centre's vitality.

The site for his 1,500 sq m store, the same size as Tesco's original proposal, is next to the Splash pool on Weybourne Road.

Landowners Sheringham Town Council are backing a land swap which would see Mr Hay-Smith give the town 13 acres of farmland enabling it to double the number of allotments it has and provide space to expand the cemetery.

In return he would build a Greenhouse Country Store on the four acre allotment plot, in an eco-friendly building, including sedum roofing, solar panels and wind turbines, designed by award winning architects LSI who did the Cley marshes visitor centre.

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The store would:

employ 130 staff

deliver orders, made by phone or on-line, in electric vehicles

use locally-sourced products were possible.

operate a caf� which could be an attraction itself on the coast road

not sell books, clothes, electrical goods or ironmonger in a bid to co-exist with current traders

put a minimum of 10pc of the profits back into a charitable trust to help local causes.

Mr Hay-Smith said he aimed to build and operate the store, but would consider letting a retailer run it, if they were 'of the right profile.' Any sale proceeds would also have to give 10pc to the charity trust.

The 52-year-old was brought up in Sheringham and has just retired locally after a successful business career where he was chief executive of an education division of publishers Pearson.

'I have watched the Tesco debate from afar and have been thinking about this for a year. The community deserves better than what Tesco is planning. I want to see another option,' explained the man who also helped the community by donating a LandRover and mountain bike to the local police to help with neighbourhood patrols.

He realised there were hurdles in the way, including planning, as the land was currently earmarked as open space. But it was previously employment land, so it was just taking it back to its original purpose, he added.

Although it was the same size as the Tesco scheme, his was a different, greener approach, and less of a traffic hazard away from the roundabout and fire station.

The allotments swap scheme provided 112 plots to help tackle the waiting list. It includes improved access, composters, standardised sheds, and raised beds to helped disabled gardeners, and was not dependent on the store plan going ahead, he added.

Sheringham mayor Noel Gant said he could not comment on the store plan, but confirmed the council had agreed in principle 'after considerable discussion' to the land swap because of the benefits to a community where there was a 40-strong waiting list for allotments.

Eroica Mildmay, whose Sheringham Campaign Against Major Retail Overdevelopment group has opposed the Tesco plans, could not comment fully about the Greenhouse scheme until she knew all the facts, but welcomed the 'community viability issues at the centre of its ethos' and green design.

North Norfolk District Council community director Steve Blatch said he was aware of the proposal, which would be attractive to some people in the community.

'We have not dismissed it out of hand but have made the developer aware of the substantial number of policy issues, such as being well outside the town centre retail area with no benefits of linked trips, and being close to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.'

An exhibition outlining the green store plans will be held in Sheringham, at the old Lloyds Bank building, on April 7-9, from 8am to 8pm.