Townsfolk out in force for Tesco inquiry

Townsfolk split by Sheringham's controversial Tesco store plan turned out in force to give their views to the inquiry that will decide its fate.More than 200 people packed into the community centre on the site where a 1,500 sq m supermarket has been refused permission.

Townsfolk split by Sheringham's controversial Tesco store plan turned out in force to give their views to the inquiry that will decide its fate.

More than 200 people packed into the community centre on the site where a 1,500 sq m supermarket has been refused permission.

The Tuesday evening session to harness local views was delayed by half an hour after it had to move upstairs to a bigger meeting room - and still had people standing, and listening by audio link from an overspill area as more than 40 people put their evidence and opinions.

Objectors, who turned out in the largest numbers, outlined fears that the Tesco store would kill off existing traders, as seen in other towns like Hunstanton, and would add to traffic congestion on the busy coast road.


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Business people relayed how visitors were drawn to the resort by its character and old fashioned atmosphere, which would be ruined by a large supermarket.

And speakers called on the inspector, Christina Downes to uphold the refusal, which had been democratically backed by the town and district councils.

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Supporters however said Sheringham needed to provide a store for modern day shopping needs in a town where small stores were expensive and offered less choice. Tesco would stop people having to travel to other towns, and create jobs.

Earlier in the day, back at the hearing's regular venue of the district council chamber in Cromer, the Sheringham Campaign Against Major Retail Overdevelopment and local traders - who are leading the opposition - came under attack from resident Paul Norman for “wanting to see Sheringham preserved as a 1950s theme park.”

He added: “We are not role-playing extras. We are real people who live and work here in the 21st century with all the pressures that involves.”

Mr Norman said local families, on low local wages, wanted a bigger supermarket, but felt their voice was being swamped by the anti campaigners.

And Malcolm Bass said the relentless anti-Tesco campaign had been a “vendetta on the company rather than the development.” It was intimidating, “little short of bullying” and put undue pressure on councillors who made the decision.

But shops would close if the Tesco store went ahead and drove a final nail into their coffin, said Phil Smith of the Rural Shops Alliance, which represents 7,000 independent traders nationwide.

Tesco were “very professional” in the way they ran stores, but also predatory and ruthless when it came to eliminating the competition.

It was impossible to have “the best of both worlds” with a new supermarket and a vibrant town centre. And the £16m allegedly being clawed back into the economy by stopping people doing their weekly shop elsewhere would only “go into the tills of Tesco” at the expense of Morrisons in Cromer.

Chamber of trade spokesman from Cromer Tracey Khalil said her town faced losing £10m worth of trade in the first year of a Tesco opening.

It could undermine the 16 years it had taken to recover from Safeway (now Morrisons) opening, which had been achieved through £12m worth of investment and five years of regeneration.

She feared Sheringham was the final piece in a Tesco jigsaw puzzle which saw them turning North Norfolk into Tescoland.

The inquiry is due to end on Wednesday, with a decision announced six to eight weeks afterwards.

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