Tithebarn shopping centre ruling 'perverse'

Blackburn MP Jack Straw
Image caption Blackburn MP Jack Straw said the argument could be taken to the High Court

Blackburn MP Jack Straw has described a minister's approval of a £700m shopping centre in Preston as "perverse".

Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles approved the Tithebarn plan despite a planning inspector's report saying it would lead to heavy traffic congestion.

The leader of Preston City Council, Ken Hudson, said the go-ahead for the scheme was "like winning the lottery".

However, Mr Straw said the argument could now be taken to the High Court.

The plans had been opposed by neighbouring councils Blackburn and Blackpool which saw it as a threat to their own trading future.

The inspector's report supported the councils' opposition, and advised that the planning application be refused.

Mr Straw, a former Labour cabinet member, said Mr Pickles' decision to go against the inspector's recommendation was "extraordinary".

Mr Straw explained: "The inspector said it would lead to over-development of Preston, draw away retail spend from the other areas and lead to very heavy traffic congestion.

"[In the report, Eric Pickles] accepts that this development could not take place without a detrimental impact on congestion in the city centre.

"He then goes on to say the proposal is not in accordance with a development plan on national policy in terms of transportation but then says it doesn't matter and that is absurd."

He added: "This is a very perverse decision by the secretary of state."

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