Seaside UK Town Battles Supermarket Expansion and Wins

sheringham norfolk photo

Image from Mail online

There can hardly be a town without Tesco in Britain. The supermarket controls 30% of the business in the country and has stores everywhere. As it expands relentlessly it often wipes out small local businesses in its way. Sheringham, a resort town of 7,500 people has held out for 14 years against Tesco. Instead it has butchers and bakers and fishmongers along its main road.

Tesco applied for planning permission to build on the main street and met with opposition by the locals. Surprisingly the permission was denied; instead a local farmer was given the go-ahead. He had an alternate proposal to build a green and environmental supermarket in association with Waitrose supermarket. Another David and Goliath story? Not quite...

norfolk store photo

Image from Greenhouse Community Project: Waitrose store model

The leader of the fight against Tesco, Clive Hay-Smith, turns out to be a high-powered advertising executive who had retired to his boyhood town in search of a peaceful life. Instead he got involved in the local politics, spurred on by the threat of the impact of the huge supermarket. It seemed like it would turn the lovely main street into a massive traffic jam, destroy the independent shops and the look of the area.

tesco store model photo

Image from edp24: Tesco store model

Hay-Smith came up with the idea to build another supermarket on the outskirts of town and make it the greenest supermarket ever. To be called The Greenhouse Country Store, it will have "solar panels, rainwater harvesting, eco-friendly refrigeration methods, a sedum plant roof and an electric bus service which will be a shuttle bus to the store. Food would be sourced locally and, next door, the Norfolk Food Academy would be built to teach nutrition and cooking skills." Waitrose, another smaller, rival supermarket, with a history of environmentalism and supporting local producers, would run it.

The debate at the local council was hot and heavy with 90 in the audience and 14 deputants making their case. A high school student, clutching a plastic globe, spoke passionately in favour of the environment and the Greenhouse scheme which she said "would act as a beacon for retailers across the country and encourage further eco-friendly development."

hay-smith photo

Image from North Norfolk News

It's all part of a very sophisticated and ambitious community undertaking: The Greenhouse Community Project. It is not just about the supermarket. It includes a land swap of land owned by Hay-Smith with the Council to provide more allotment gardens. A charity-based hospitality and food-oriented educational establishment, the Norfolk Food Academy, will be established to provide education and employment for local youth. He has spent £2 million of his own money on the development of this community project. These will be linked to the supermarket which is not intended to compete head-on with the existing shops in the main street.

Supporters are holding their breath because there may be an appeal launched by the loser, Tesco.

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