Few votes divide supermarket rivals in Sheringham poll

People queuing at polling station
Image caption The poll was organised by North Norfolk District Council

A poll to find out which of two supermarket plans residents of a Norfolk town prefer has ended with just 15 votes between the rival projects.

More than 2,600 people turned out in Sheringham on Thursday to vote for Tesco or the Greenhouse Community Project, which includes a Waitrose.

North Norfolk District Council said 1,180 were in favour of Tesco and 1,165 said yes to the Waitrose plan.

The turnout was 44%, just 2% less than for the 2007 district council election.

Councillors are due to discuss both schemes.

In the vote, electors could also declare whether they did not support each proposal, with 1,131 voting against the Waitrose plan and 1,205 against Tesco.

Of those who chose to answer whether they would prefer Sheringham to remain without a supermarket, 1,568 voted "no" and 523 voted "yes".

Not every voter answered all three questions on the paper.

Affordable homes

Tesco has tried for 14 years to open a supermarket in Sheringham.

In March, the council rejected its application and instead opted for The Greenhouse Community Project's plan for a Waitrose and catering school, the Norfolk Food Academy, on Weybourne Road.

The Greenhouse Community Project claimed its supermarket would not detract trade from the town's independent shops - a concern of anti-Tesco campaigners - because it would not have a pharmacy or sell clothes, books, electricals and hardware.

Tesco submitted a fresh plan in August which includes knocking down flats on the Cromer Road site and building a new fire station and community centre elsewhere.

It also wishes to build two affordable homes on the store site and 12 homes near the community centre.

It has said it has guaranteed £1.2m funding towards additional housing.

'Supermarket battle'

A spokesman for the Greenhouse Community Project said the poll had emphasised the two schools of thought in Sheringham.

"This has been perceived as a battle between two supermarkets but the Greenhouse Community Project is much more, and I think that's beginning to resonate with the people of Sheringham.

"I'm very satisfied that after significantly less than two years we've managed to come out dead level with a supermarket giant which has tried to open a store for 14 years."

He added that the council should now ratify the plan which it had approved in March.

A Tesco spokesman said: "This is a clear 'yes' for Tesco in Sheringham.

"For years a small minority of people have claimed Tesco is not wanted in the town.

"But now a massive 82% of local people have said they do want a new supermarket and a majority of these people said they want it to be built by Tesco."

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