Tesco loses fight to block Asda out-of-town scheme

Supermarket giant Tesco's bid to block rival Asda's plans for a new out-of-town superstore in Lydney in Gloucestershire have failed at London's High Court.

London's Royal Courts of Justice
London's Royal Courts of Justice

Tesco, which says that the new Asda would harm trade in the town centre, and slash its own trade there, had asked a High Court judge to quash the planning permission granted by Forest of Dean District Council, just as the court has now twice blocked plans for a new Asda in nearby Cinderford.

However, Mrs Justice Patterson, sitting in London, today rejected all of Tesco's complaints, and ruled that the permission can stand.

Lawyers representing Tesco had claimed that the authority had failed to heed clear advice from judges in the Cinderford case on how to approach such out of town developments, and had wrongly granted permission despite its own planning officers recommending refusal.

They claimed that the council's planning committee wrongly put too much weight on the desire to keep Lydney's biggest employer, camshaft producer JD Norman Lydney, in the town.

The complex development approved by the council also allows JD Norman Lydney to move its finishing shop from land where its lease is set to run out at the end of the year to adjacent land it owns, with funding for that move to be boosted by financial assistance from developer Windmill Ltd, which has a deal in place to acquire part of the site, develop it and sell the store to Asda.

The planning committee took the view that the harm to the town centre would be mitigated by the developer's commitment to contributing funds to regeneration, including £30,000 for a new market square and £210,000 for further town centre improvements.

It also considered that the overall scheme would safeguard more than 200 jobs at JD Norman.

But Tesco - which says it will lose more than a third of its trade to the new Asda - claims that the planning committee took an irrational or illogical approach to the threatened loss of jobs, failing to explain why the business would close if permission was not granted.

Rejecting that claim, the judge said that council members were entitled to take a different view on the issue to that taken by their officers.

She said: "The members were quite entitled to disagree with the recommendation of the officers, provided they had a reasonable basis for doing so. Their basis here was to give greater weight to the employment considerations than the officers. They were entitled to do so."

Tesco had also claimed that no evidence had been given as to how contributions offered by the developer would mitigate the substantial harm to the town centre.

But the judge said that the council members concluded that the development would secure "important advantages to the town of Lydney", which was "a matter of planning judgment entirely for them".

The council took a backseat in the proceedings, and lawyers for the "interested parties" - including Asda and the developer - successfully defended the planning permission at the London court.

R on the Application of Tesco Stores Limited v Forest of Dean District Council. Case Number: CO/1830/2014

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