Peel gets consent for centre

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The Independent Online
Shares in Peel Holdings jumped 30p to 265p after the Law Lords approved the property company's plans for an out-of-townshopping centre near Manchester. The decision draws a line under two years of legal wrangling between the company and a consortium of eight Greater Manchester councils which has fought bitterly against the development.

David Kaiserman, of Manchester City Council, said: "We are disappointed and not a little annoyed. The Law Lords were considering a very narrow legal point and their decision in no way comes to a view on the merits of the case."

He criticised John Gummer, the environment secretary, for not enforcing last year's Court of Appeal decision to quash permission for the scheme, despite the fact that he has spoken strongly against the explosion of out-of-town shopping centres.

Mr Kaiserman said the development, at Dumplington, would involve the transfer of pounds 300m of trade a year from town centres to the new centre and warned that the impact on high streets could be devastating.

The 300-acre development, which Peel says could create 3,000 permanent jobs and might involve pounds 200m of investment, is probably the last big out- of-town scheme to get planning consent. Government policy has undergone a marked shift over the past two years in favour of revitalising town centres and restricting environmental damage caused by large greenfield sites only accessible by car.

Peel has argued that of all the UK's major population centres, only the North-west is without a large regional shopping mall. Land Securities, currently building a similar scheme near Leeds, said yesterday that it would be interested in acting as a partner at Dumplington.

The House of Lords decision is a long-awaited relief for John Whittaker, Peel chairman, who waged a 10-year battle for control of Manchester Ship Canal, Dumplington's developer. Mr Whittaker defeated rebel shareholders led by Nicholas Berry, former owner of the Harraps dictionary business, in 1993, shortly after consent was originally granted for the Dumplington scheme.

Analysts said the approval could be worth pounds 40m, or 40p a share, to Peel. Shares in the company have risen by 30 per cent since the start of the month.