Tesco loses legal bid to stop Asda building new Newtownabbey superstore

Tesco has lost its legal battle against rival Asda obtaining planning permission to build a new superstore in Newtownabbey.
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The Court of Appeal rejected claims that councillors who approved the £17.5m development on the Doagh Road, Newtownabbey were misdirected about the potential availability of an alternative site.

Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan ruled on Wednesday: “This is quintessentially a case where a valid planning judgment was made.”

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In February 2021 Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council gave the go-ahead for a new Asda supermarket and petrol station on the former Nortel site at Monkstown Industrial Estate.

A computer-generated visualisation of the proposed new store.A computer-generated visualisation of the proposed new store.
A computer-generated visualisation of the proposed new store.

Car parking and click-and-collect facilities also form part of the project which is expected to generate up to 250 full-time and part-time jobs.

Tesco Stores Ltd issued judicial review proceedings over alleged failures and flaws in how the local authority applied relevant planning policy.

The Strategic Planning Policy Statement for Northern Ireland (SPPS) requires a “town centres-first approach” to the location of future retail development and a “sequential” assessment of possible other sites in the decision-making process.

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According to Tesco’s case, the council wrongly concluded that a possible alternative location at Abbey Trading Centre (ATC) on the Longwood Road was unavailable, therefore failing to investigate and consider questions of suitability and viability.

Asda maintained that site would not be able to accommodate its new superstore.

It also emerged that the ATC location had been considered for a proposed route in expanding the Glider project as part of the Belfast Rapid Transport (BRT) scheme.

Teso’s initial challenge was rejected by the High Court in October last year. A judge held that the ATC site was plainly unavailable when the council granted permission to Asda.

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Appealing that ruling, lawyers for Tesco argued that the Planning Committee only received a partial account about the alternative availability.

But Dame Siobhan, sitting with Lord Justice Horner and Mr Justice Colton, said that the BRT proposals had been a live issue which councillors were briefed on and debated.

"The decision makers were not misled or misinformed,” she stated. “A planning judgment was made which we do not consider can be impugned.”

Dismissing the appeal, the Chief Justice added there could be no real certainty about future availability of the ATC site because of continuing work on the new Glider corridor project.

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"This means that with the benefit of hindsight there is in fact no injustice wrought by the decision made,” she said.

"It would be invidious if the planning system went into freeze frame until as complicated a process as approval for the BRT scheme was completed.”

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