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NORTH WEST COUNCILS LOSE HIGH COURT BATTLE OVER 'SHOPPING CITY'

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After seven years of wrangling, a judge has finally opened the way for construction of a huge 'shopping city' on th...
After seven years of wrangling, a judge has finally opened the way for construction of a huge 'shopping city' on the outskirts of Manchester over the objections of a 'consortium' of eight neighbouring local authorities.

Mr Justice Schiemann, sitting in London's High Court, dismissed the consortium's appeal and confirmed the Environment Secretary, Michael Howard's, decision to give the go-ahead for the multi-million pound scheme. That was a victory for the developers behind the plans -- The Manchester Ship Canal Company -- and for the Trafford Park Development Corporation.

The court heard the Trafford Centre is planned to cover an area of 123 hectares, with 129 shopping units, a number of large stores and over 10,000 car parking spaces. The Secretary of State for the Environment gave planning permission for the scheme on March 4 this year and it was that decision the consortium challenged in the High Court.

The eight Councils were supported by the Department of Transport in their claims that the development would cause severe congestion on the already heavily used M63 motorway, the court heard. The consortium also claimed that circumstances had been changed significantly by the recession and other factors since the process of obtaining planning permission began over seven years ago.

They alleged the Secretary of State's decision to grant planning permission for the scheme was 'perverse' and that he had failed to abide by his duty to give full reasons. And that the new shopping city would cause severe damage to existing in-town shopping centres which were already feeling the cold winds of recession.

But Mr Justice Schiemann dismissed the consortium's appeal, saying the Secretary of State had considered all relevant matters before coming to his decision. The Secretary of State knew that circumstances had changed since the first inquiry into the proposals in 1987/88 and he perceived that the proposals had 'a number of disadvantages'.

He rejected the consortium's claims that the way in which the Secretary of State had dealt with national and local planning policies would make dealing with similar planning applications 'significantly more difficult' in the future. The consortium's appeal was dismissed and the Secretary of State's decision to grant planning permission upheld.

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