A retail landlord suffered a legal defeat in the High Court at the hands of an East Lancashire Council.

Hyndburn Council had clashed with giant retail development company Peel Holdings by refusing to allow food and fashion type stores at Whitebirk Retail Park.

Their policy to allow only bulky and electrical goods has now been upheld the High Court.

Fears that an ‘unrestricted’ expansion of Whitebirk Retail Park would hit Blackburn and Accrington town centres have abated with Peel Holdings Ltd losing the crucial legal ruling against Hyndburn Council.

However, it now looks as if the ruling will not be the end of the fight as the judge gave the go-ahead for a test case appeal against his decision.

Blackburn MP Jack Straw, who described Peel’s actions in the run up to the ruling as ‘bullying’, said: “This decision doesn’t just protect Accrington and Blackburn’s high streets, but high streets across the country.”

Town centre retailers spoke of their relief.

Mark Bourgeois, of The Mall, Blackburn said: “Blackburn is a strong and vibrant community town centre in which we and Blackburn with Darwen Council have invested significantly in recent years.

“We have done so knowing planning policy is there to protect town centres. Peel's Whitebirk application was legally flawed and quite obviously contrary to planning policy and so the High Court decision is a just one.”.

Council leader, Miles Parkinson, said: “I’m pleased with this judgement and would like to thank Blackburn with Darwen Council for their support and also thank and acknowledge the help and support from Hyndburn MP Graham Jones and MP Jack Straw who raised the matter in Parliament.”

A spokesperson for The Peel Group said the local community had “consistently and overwhelmingly supported our plans to modernise Whitebirk.

“We would like to thank the community for their continuing support. Our proposals aim to unlock well over £16m of investment, create over 250 new jobs within Hyndburn and provide local people with a local alternative to travelling to retail parks in Preston and Bolton.

“We have been given permission by the Court to appeal the decision and will of course be reviewing the case in more detail with our legal team.”