Tesco draw up new plans for Sheringham store
Richard BatsonTesco is poised to draw up fresh plans for a smaller and better-looking store at Sheringham in a bid to win its long-running battle to build a supermarket there.Richard Batson
Tesco is poised to draw up fresh plans for a smaller and better-looking store at Sheringham in a bid to win its long-running battle to build a supermarket there.
Its previous scheme was rejected by local councillors and a government planning inspector who felt it would damage the viability of the existing town centre.
But the retail giant has appointed an award-winning architect - famous for creating the Gateshead 'winking eye' Millennium Bridge on Tyneside - in a fresh twist to a saga which has split local opinion.
Tesco confirmed the new store would be smaller than the original 1,500 sq m, but said it was too early to say how big it would be. Emerging planning blueprints suggest a 750 sq m store would better suit the town's needs.
Company spokesman Nick Gellatly said the change of tack was a bid to provide Sheringham with the store it needed as quickly as possible.
Tesco has challenged the planning inspector's findings through the high court, but a hearing was not due until this summer, and if successful, a new inquiry could take more than a year.
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It was hoped fresh plans, which sought to answer some of the concerns raised at the inquiry over size and design, could be tabled with North Norfolk District by June.
No decision had yet been made on size, but Tesco's appointment of Wilkinson Eyre Architects showed they were doing their best to provide Sheringham with the best possible store. And he felt there was continued demand for a value store, particularly in the current economic downturn.
It was the first time the company had used the top designers for a store, and they would be handed a blank sheet of paper in an attempt to come up a plan that suited the town and surroundings. The previous plan was branded 'mundane, poor and characterless' by the inspector.
Mr Gellatly said the company had listened to concerns, and wanted to the hear the voice of the 'real people of Sheringham who were put off by people waving banners' last time.
One of those banner wavers, opponent Eroica Mildmay, of the Sheringham Campaign Against Major Retail Overdevelopment, said they would be looking carefully at the plans, and remained on 'red alert.'
There was not currently enough detail, including the proposed size, to make a full assessment.
Locals felt a logical step for Tesco would be to use the closed Woolworths store at the heart of, rather than on the edge of, the town centre.
And Scamrod was alarmed by Tesco's tendency to try to double the size of stores they had already built at places such as Stalham, Watton and Dereham.
'You can never tell with Tesco what is really going on. It is very smoke and mirrors,' she added.
Supporters of the store plan - which would create more than 120 local jobs, as well as a new community centre and fire station - welcomed the news of fresh plans.
Pam Blyth of the Pro Tesco group said she was 'delighted Tesco has decided to show faith in Sheringham'. People were crying out for a store in the downturn, and she hoped 'the community and local families whose voices have not been heard in the past will give it their backing.'
Student Jono Read, creator of the We Want a Tesco in Sheringham Facebook group, said: 'I started the group because I know that lots of young people in the area want a new supermarket and supported the plans. We were all very angry and disappointed when they were rejected.'
Wilkinson Eyre has won two prestigious Stirling Prizes from the Royal Institute of British Architects in consecutive years, firstly for transforming a redundant steelworks in Rotherham into the UK's first Science Adventure Centre, followed, in 2002 by the unique Gateshead crossing for pedestrians and cyclists over the River Tyne.
Director Jim Eyre said the Sheringham store was 'an exciting challenge' to be asked to create a bespoke design for a new store that related to other shops.
'We are carefully considering the character of the town as the plans are developed. It is obvious from what we have heard informally from Sheringham people that they care for their town a great deal. This is a very important site and we would like it to live up to its obvious potential,' he added.