Environmental campaigners are claiming that a public inquiry due to begin today in Norfolk will be a test of the ability of local councillors and residents to prevent what they see as damaging supermarket
developments. The inquiry will look into plans by Tesco to build a store close to the seaside town of Sheringham. The Campaign to Protect Rural England says the result could have implications across the country.
At the hearing, which is expected to last for three weeks, the company is challenging a decision by North Norfolk District Councillors, who in December unanimously voted to turn down an application for redevelopment of a site on the edge of the town. CPRE is supporting residents and local campaign groups opposed to the development.
Tom Oliver, Head of Rural Policy at the Campaign said, “This is a crucial moment in the struggle by local people to decide for themselves what kind of place they will live in and how their town develops in the future.” He added that the case was about people having a real choice and not allowing big businesses to dominate their way of life.
During the inquiry Ian Shepherd, Planning Policy Co-ordinator at CPRE in Norfolk, will be giving evidence and he emphasised the wider importance of the hearing. “This public inquiry could be critical, not just for the future of Sheringham, but as a case study for other inappropriate and unwelcome supermarket developments,” he said.
Mr. Shepherd said local people and councillors had consistently expressed their opposition to Tesco’s proposals and felt a new supermarket could cause serious damage to the vitality and viability of the
town centre. “The small independent retailers, which give Sheringham so much of its appeal and character, could suffer, as well as the wider Norfolk economy, including local suppliers and tourism,” he added.