THE owners of Stourport’s Co-op supermarket have lost their Court of Appeal battle to block a large new Tesco store, which they claim could force the Co-op to close and “devastate” the town centre.

Lord Justice Laws, Lady Justice Smith and Lord Justice Rimer had been asked by The Midcounties Co-operative to quash the planning permission granted by Wyre Forest District Council in May 2008 for a Tesco superstore at the former Carpets of Worth site, on Severn Road, on the grounds that a condition limiting the retail floorspace is unclear.

However, the three judges today ruled that the condition was "sufficiently clear and certain" and that the permission should stand.

Last March, Midcounties failed to win a ruling from High Court judge Mr Justice Duncan Ouseley quashing the first grant of planning permission.

Midcounties claimed that the council had granted permission for a supermarket 20 per cent bigger than indicated on Tesco’s planning application.

It argued that the council acted outside of its powers in permitting a new Tesco store of 2,919 square metres of net sales space, rather than the 2,401 square metres indicated in the application.

However, the judge said he could see "no basis whatsoever for quashing the planning permission".

David Holgate QC, counsel for Midcounties, argued at the Appeal Court that the judge "seriously erred" in the conclusion he reached, and was wrong to find that the planning permission was clear.

However, Ian Dove QC for Wyre Forest District Council argued that it was clear that planning permission had been granted for a supermarket with a gross external area of no more than 4,209 square metres, with a net retail area of 2,919 square metres of which 2,401 square metres would actually be used for trading.

Backing the council today, Lord Justice Laws said: "In this case the obligation restricts for all purposes the use of the development for the 'sale and display of goods including the checkouts and the customer counters' to no more than 2401 square metres.

"Mr Holgate submits that the scope of this obligation is itself uncertain. I do not agree. On the contrary, it seems to me to limit the development (as regards actual selling space) expressly to what had been assessed by the parties' advisers, and to the area which the judge correctly held had all along been intended to be given to actual selling space.

"In all the circumstances I conclude that the planning permission including Condition 6 provides a sufficiently clear and certain form of control of the intended actual selling space to 2401 square metres. For those reasons I would dismiss the appeal."

The council had argued that the "practical reality" was that the larger figure of 2,919 square metres included entrances, exits, customer services desks and other non-retail facilities which customers would have access to that are vital for a supermarket's operation.

Midcounties claimed that the new Tesco store would lead to the closure of the town centre Tesco Metro store and could cause its own Co-op supermarket to close.

It claimed its store “anchors” Stourton town centre, and that the new Tesco store would have a “devastating impact” on the vitality and viability of the town centre.

Midcounties also claimed that the plans will create traffic congestion, and have a significant adverse impact on conservation areas adjacent to the site.