Lend Lease and Grosvenor’s Preston joint venture disputed by Blackburn

Plans for the £700m redevelopment of Preston’s town centre have been cast into doubt after a neighbouring borough, Blackburn with Darwen, has launched a legal challenge over the government’s approval of the plans.

The Tithebarn scheme, which won planning approval from secretary of state Eric Pickles in November 2010 despite a recommendation from the planning inspector to refuse permission, will now be further delayed while a judge rules on whether the decision was properly made.

Tithebarn is being promoted by a joint venture between Lend Lease and Grosvenor, and is designed to produce a 1.5 million ft² retail destination anchored by a 230,000ft² John Lewis store, 500 homes and a nine-screen cinema. Blackburn council feels the development is too big and will damage its own town centre.

Ken Hudson, leader of Preston council, said he was in “utter disbelief” over the challenge. He said: “It means more expense to the taxpayers of Blackburn and yet more delays and uncertainty for Preston. How Blackburn can justify spending public money on another unnecessary legal challenge to Tithebarn at a time when they are making job cuts, is quite simply beyond us and no doubt most reasonable people.”

Dave Harling, executive member for regeneration at Blackburn council, told the Lancashire Evening Post that the planning inspector had decided the scheme was flawed and should be rejected. He said: “The minister overturned this decision, but it is not clear how he reached his decision and we believe that there are procedural improprieties that need further investigation.

“The impact of the minister’s unjustified decision will have a negative effect on Blackburn and other local towns, which the minister did not appear to think was important.”

Andy Kay, the council’s executive member for resources, said the costs of the appeal formed part of the original legal fees. He said: “There is a lot at stake. Our investment in the town centre, which is valued at tens of millions of pounds, including the new mall and our new market, could be seriously jeopardised by a development of the scale of Tithebarn.”

Blackpool council has also expressed support for Blackburn’s challenge.

Lend Lease now has 14 days to respond.