Tesco loses legal challenge over Asda's green light for Newtownabbey superstore

Tesco has lost a legal challenge to rival Asda being granted planning permission to build a new superstore in Newtownabbey.

High Court proceedings were brought after approval was given for the supermarket and petrol station at the former Nortel site at Monkstown Industrial Estate on the Doagh Road, Newtownabbey.

The £17.5m development is expected to generate up to 250 full-time and part-time jobs.

Lawyers for Tesco Stores Ltd issued proceedings after Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council gave the go-ahead to the scheme in February last year.

A CGI visualisation of the proposed store.

But a judge dismissed a judicial review case centred on alleged failures and flaws in how the local authority applied relevant planning policy.

Asda was granted permission to demolish the existing building on the site and replace it with a food store, eight-bay filling station, car parking and a click-and-collect facility.

During the hearing it was claimed that the council incorrectly dealt with the issue of site selection under the Strategic Planning Policy Statement for Northern Ireland.

The SPSS includes an objective to adopt a “town centres-first approach” for the location of future retailing, involving the application of a “sequential” assessment of possible other locations in the decision-making process.

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

But Mr Justice Scoffield held that it was neither irrational nor unfair for the council to deal with the case on the basis of information before it.

“The Tesco assertion at the Planning Committee meeting that the site was available was essentially a bald assertion made without evidence,” he said.

“In the present case, when the impugned decision was made, the ATC site was plainly unavailable in my view.”

The judge confirmed: “None of the applicant’s grounds of judicial review are made out and I dismiss the application for judicial review.”

Mr Justice Scoffield also described late interventions made by Tesco when the planning request was due to be considered as “an unsettling element”.

He added: “It is difficult to discern whether the timing of these objection letters was specifically designed as a spoiling tactic, although the court can quite see why the notice party (Asda) may harbour significant suspicions in that respect.”