THE FIRM behind a controversial out-of-town retail development has threatened a local authority with legal action unless it drops its opposition to the plans.

Peel Holdings has told Hyndburn Council it will seek a High Court review next month if it continues to reject its bid for a planning permission to open new, larger stores at the Whitebirk Retail Park on the edge of Blackburn and Rishton.

The plans have been opposed by shopkeepers, councillors concerned at the impact it would have on Accrington and Blackburn town centres.

Last week Peel wrote to Hyndburn Council urging it to reconsider its refusal to lift existing restrictions on trading in goods such as fashion, food and footwear in a final attempt to resolve the dispute voluntarily.

But the firm warned that if this failed it would seek a Judicial Review in the High Court next month.

The firm argued that 29 smaller planning permissions taken together meant the original agreement between the company and the council was no longer valid and should be lifted despite previously failing to overturn the ban at a public inquiry.

Last week Mr Straw attacked Peel’s conduct in a special Parliamentary debate and said the firm had used planning procedures in a way that amounted to ‘calculated deceit’.

Mr Jones said: “This is just predatory capitalism. Peel want to develop Whitebirk regardless of the effect on businesses and jobs in Blackburn and Accrington town centres.”

A spokesperson for Peel Holdings said it had the support of local residents and invested heavily in Blackburn and Hyndburn.

Leader of Hyndburn Borough Council Miles Parkinson said the authority would “vigorously defend” its decision.