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Tesco jibe 'laughable' says eco-store chief

PUBLISHED: 12:48 10 September 2009 | UPDATED: 09:56 13 July 2010

The man behind an eco-friendly supermarket for Sheringham has dismissed a swipe by Tesco at his and another rival venture as “laughable”.

The supermarket giant, which has been battling to open a branch in the town since 1996, made the comments as part of a bundle of planning papers which have been lodged with the district council.

The man behind an eco-friendly supermarket for Sheringham has dismissed a swipe by Tesco at his and another rival venture as “laughable”.

The supermarket giant, which has been battling to open a branch in the town since 1996, made the comments as part of a bundle of planning papers which have been lodged with the district council.

Tesco says Sainsbury's imminent opening of a local “top up” store in the old Woolworths high street shop is more likely to harm existing food shops than Tesco's scheme will - and does not satisfy the need for a larger supermarket for the big weekly shop.

It also criticises the eco-friendly Greenhouse Country Store, proposed by local businessman Clive Hay-Smith, saying it was too far from the town centre, its niche market products likely to be expensive and would need to prove it met planning policies on need, location and impact.

This week Mr Hay-Smith dismissed the comments and insisted they would not harm his project's chances. He said: “I'm not going to get fussed by Tesco.”

In response to questions about the location his store - proposed for the Weybourne Road - and its viability, the businessman said he was “absolutely sure” the scheme would work as a business and would not harm the town's existing shops.

He added: “I own businesses in the town - it's absolutely in my interest to make sure it benefits the town. We are very much geared towards complementing.”

Tesco's latest scheme on the Cromer Road for a 1,175 sq m of sales floor, five smaller shops, flats, community space, and 143 parking spaces seeks to address concerns flagged up by a government inspector who rejected the last scheme.

They included worries about the impact on the town centre - the main focus of vocal opposition from traders and town councillors - and its dull design.

New plans reduce the retail space by 21pc, move the store closer to the town centre and are a bespoke design by award-winning architects who created the landmark winking-eye footbridge on Tyneside.

In a 150-page retail assessment Tesco says that if it can address the previous concerns “then planning permission should follow.”

It says Sheringham has “failed to realise its potential” for supermarket shopping and that surveys showed that a Tesco store which opened near Fakenham town centre had provided a spin-off for other shops - with people spending 50p at local traders for every £1 spent in the store.

The Sheringham plan aimed to stop most people heading out of the town for their weekly shop, with the biggest loss in trade likely to be suffered by Morrison's and the Co-Op at Cromer.

Tesco's planning dossier says the Sainsbury's local store planned for Sheringham, at just 255sq m, would not stop that migration and would not bring extra shoppers to the town.

“Although the town centre would be enhanced through the introduction of a new high street name, there must be some concerns that the benefits might be outweighed by the trade loss to the existing food shops, without any commensurate spin-off activity,” it adds.

On the Greenhouse Country Store, it said while the venture “looks interesting and innovative” with its mix of home grown produce and a food academy, and frequent use of the term “community project” it was commercially dependent on a 1,250 sq m supermarket - a claim Mr Hay-Smith said was untrue.

Tesco says the two schemes should not be considered as alternatives - but if they were “there could only be one outcome.”

Mr Hay-Smith said he was concerned that the supermarket giant seemed to be trying to dictate planners' decisions. He said: “It's the arrogance and I think Tesco's ongoing belief is that they think they have a done deal. I find it amazing they are telling the council what to do.”

The Tesco scheme may be debated at the October 15 or November 12 planning committee meetings, or a special session may be held. Officers are also taking advice on whether the Tesco and Greenhouse schemes should be decided separately or at the same time.

Sheringham Town Council is due to debate the plans on September 15 at 8pm. Neighbouring Beeston Regis parish council discussed them this week and raised no objection, but aired concerns over loss of trees, housing, and access issues.


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