Sheringham supermarket row councillor cleared

Victoria LeggettA councillor caught up in the Sheringham supermarket wars was this week cleared of any wrongdoing during a controversial planning meeting to discuss rival plans back in March.Victoria Leggett

A councillor caught up in the Sheringham supermarket wars was this week cleared of any wrongdoing during a controversial planning meeting to discuss rival plans back in March.

Candy Sheridan was accused of breaching North Norfolk District Council's code of conduct at a meeting on March 4 during which members voted to approve plans for the Greenhouse Community Project, featuring a store run by Waitrose, while rejecting a Tesco proposal.

Complaints sent to the council claimed she should have declared a personal or prejudicial interest in the applications since her involvement running a business in Stalham meant she was anti-Tesco.

That shop, The Worm Forgives the Plough, closed more than four years ago and Ms Sheridan now runs a mobile 'bygones' business.

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On Tuesday, a standards committee hearing panel decided there had been no breach.

Chairman of the panel Anne Shirley said: 'This committee finds that the business of the development control committee on March 4 did not relate to Councillor Sheridan's current business and did not affect that business.'

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Following the meeting a relieved Ms Sheridan said she was still baffled over why she had been brought before the panel.

She said: 'Thank God for common sense. I didn't think I had ever done anything wrong.'

During the meeting the councillor had to answer allegations that she was anti-Tesco having spoken out against the supermarket giant's store in Stalham in an interview with Friends of the Earth back in 2004.

Ms Sheridan admitted she still felt 'very passionate about what happened in Stalham' - some blame the chain for the closure of some of the town's shops - but that had no bearing on the Sheringham applications.

She said: 'Everything I said was pertinent to Stalham. I have not got a personal crusade against Tesco.'

The councillor also pointed out her own shop had failed following the death of her husband and not due to any supermarket competition.

The meeting also heard Ms Sheridan had made the council's legal advisers aware of the interview. She had declared it early on in Sheringham's storewars saga, however that was before councillors signed a new code of conduct stating interests had to be declared at the beginning of each meeting.

Following the meeting Ms Sheridan, who is no long on the planning committee, said the investigation into the complaint should not have dragged on so long and could put others off becoming councillors.

She said: 'The message it's giving is if you come out as an active councillor and if you speak from the heart, there is a price to be paid.'

Ms Sheridan was one of three councillors subject to complaints following the March 4 meeting.

Two more are still waiting to have their complaints resolved.

The decisions to approve the Greenhouse project and reject Tesco's proposals were put on hold following the meeting while officers sought legal advice over whether it would stand up to a challenge.

The planning committee has since been told it must reconvene to 'properly articulate' the reasons for the decision however last night the council said that could not happen until all complaints had been resolved.

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