Tesco appeal reignites store battle

Sheringham's supermarket saga is back in the melting pot - and it will be next summer at the earliest before Tesco's legal appeal against the result of this year's planning inquiry is resolved.

Sheringham's supermarket saga is back in the melting pot - and it will be next summer at the earliest before Tesco's legal appeal against the result of this year's planning inquiry is resolved.

Parties on both sides of the drawn out dispute have been forced to redraw the battle lines.

Hopes the row had been settled once and for all six weeks ago when a government inspector ruled against the proposed 1,500 sq m Cromer Road store were dashed this week when the retail giant pledged to appeal the decision at the High Court.

In early September inspector Christina Downes said the new store would harm the “vitality and viability” of the community.

Now a final resolution looks set to be at least nine months away, but could be longer if the legal process drags out.

Tesco announced their decision on Monday afternoon and were immediately criticised by some, but praised by others.

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Pam Blyth, of campaign group Protesc, said: “Wow, I am delighted, this has made my day.

“I am absolutely thrilled and so will a lot of people be in Sheringham.

“The town desperately needs a large supermarket - look at Aylsham with its new Tesco and the large Budgens which has been there for years.

“We have thousands of people coming to our town and they have nowhere large enough to shop.

“You won't believe how many people have written or contacted me since the inspector's September decision to say how much they wanted a supermarket.”

Eroica Mildmay, of the Sheringham Campaign Against Major Retail Overdevelopment (Scamrod), said she felt Tesco bosses were taking a “risky” stance.

She said the precedent of landslide 17-0 support among members of the North Norfolk District Council development control committee and the planning inspector's “careful and detailed” report, both in favour of the campaign against Tesco, meant there was every good reason to believe the Tesco court action could fail.

“People I have spoken to since the news of the High Court action broke have been appalled and disappointed.

“In all honesty it has made me feel a little bit physically sick.

“I have far too much sense of caution to predict what will happen, but there are several judgements in our favour.

“I think it's astounding you can't say 'no' to Tesco for valid reasons.

“This will cement their reputation for bullying and squeezing every last drop of life blood out of a community.

“In my wildest dreams I thought they might have a bit of humility, a modicum of decency. But no.”

And Richard Hewitt, a town councillor and planning solicitor, said he was disappointed to hear of the court action.

“I would have hoped Tesco would have respected the inspector's decision,” said Mr Hewitt.

“That decision last month generated quite a lot of good feeling in the town about looking forwards and getting the right solution for the town - in other words a smaller supermarket than that Tesco was proposing.

“There is general agreement in the town that we need something smaller, sensitive and complimentary to the town.”

Nick Gellatly, Tesco's regional corporate affairs manager said: “A new Tesco in Sheringham would provide a supermarket in the town centre, for which - as the inspector outlines in her report - there is an undisputed need.

“The report also recognises Cromer Road as the best location for a supermarket. That view is supported by North Norfolk District Council officers who originally recommended this proposal.

“We are challenging the inspector's decision to refuse planning permission on the grounds of size and design because these were not borne out by the evidence presented at the inquiry.

“Sheringham needs a new supermarket. I've spoken to a lot of Sheringham people who have told me that not only will a new Tesco store give them choice but it will bring competition to the town while allowing them to do their main food shop locally.

“Shoppers will no longer be forced to leave the town to feed the family each week whilst a new, free, town centre car park will encourage people back to the town all year round. That will be good news for everyone.”

Tesco bosses have since confirmed that they are expecting their High Court hearing to take place towards the middle of next year.

Mr Gellatly revealed that his company was launching its appeal under Section 228 of the Planning Act.

This meant there was no need to launch a two stage process of initially obtaining leave to appeal and then going on to a full hearing. Instead it would be possible to go straight to the full hearing, said Mr Gellatly.

The Sheringham Tesco saga began in the mid 1990s when the company showed interest in building a store on the old Hilbre School site on Holway Road.