Hillingdon taxpayers could be forced to foot a £200,000 legal bill because of attempts by Sainsbury’s to block a £100m development from going ahead in South Ruislip.
In February, the supermarket giant applied for a judicial review of the process through which Hillingdon Council granted planning permission for the proposed development, which contains a rival Asda store.
Now Citygrove Securities Ltd, the company behind the plans for the derelict Arla site, and the council have lodged their defences of the planning process with the High Court and it will be up to a judge to decide whether or not the case goes ahead.
Citygrove chairman Andrew Rennie said that, based on previous experience with similar cases, his firm believed a judicial review could delay the project by up to a year, costing the council upwards of £200,000, as Sainsbury’s has requested the defendant pays the claimant’s costs.
Mr Rennie added: “The fee to lodge the application with the High Court was a mere £140, which has already caused a three-month delay. Even if a judge refuses to hold a hearing Sainsbury’s can potentially appeal that decision, for a further court fee of £350, delaying the scheme further.
“But when you consider Sainsbury’s could save £1m for every month of delays, it’s no wonder the company is doing everything to try and slow down the inevitable.
“I do think it is immoral, however, that Sainsbury's should use both the planning system and the judiciary for the sole purpose of preserving their monopoly in South Ruislip, to deny residents further choice and competition.
“It has not been easy telling unemployed youngsters that their employment training has been put on hold, but Sainsbury’s lose sight of these implications in their pursuit of profits.”
The development is expected to created more than 530 jobs and the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust has been working with one of the contractors to create youth employment opportunities.
The double-Olympic gold medallist has written to Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe criticising the supermarket's resistance.
The plans involve building a 40,000sq ft Asda supermarket, a cinema complex, five restaurants, 14 houses and 118 flats at the derelict former dairy site in Victoria Road. Work had been scheduled to begin in March.
Planning permission was granted on the condition that Citygrove give the council £2.7m for infrastructure projects. This funding is also being held up by the delay.
Council leader Ray Puddifoot said he was confident the loser in court, which he believed would be Sainsbury's, would have to pay the bill.
He added: "We will fight this judicial review. We believe the due process was followed and accordingly we will defend our process.
"We won't run scared from Sainsbury's. If they think they can bully Hillingdon Council they certainly picked the wrong council."
Sainsbury’s has had permission to double the size of its existing supermarket in nearby Long Lane since 2006, but has not done so.
According to Citygrove, the planned Asda could cost the existing Sainsbury’s store £12.6m a year in lost revenues.
Part of the supermarket company’s objection, which has angered some local residents, is that it believes planning guidelines state that town centre developments, such as the one it has permission for, should take priority over “edge-of-town” projects, such as the planned Arla development.
A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “We believe there are a number of unanswered questions in the way Hillingdon Council approved the Arla foods scheme. We have asked an independent judge to review the case and look forward to their response.”