June 20 2013 Latest news:
By John Elworthy , The Editor
Friday, January 4, 2013
A HIGH Court judge refused a challenge from Sainsbury’s to obtain the legal advice given confidentially about ‘supermarketgate’ to Fenland District Council.
Mr Justice Hickinbottom’s ruling, made yesterday but released by Fenland Council this afternoon, said there simply wasn’t the time to go to a full hearing in the time scales proposed.
The judge said Sainsbury’s wasn’t challenging the council’s decision to refer back to its planning committee both their application and that by rivals Tesco but wanted “a mandatory order” to get legal advice given to Fenland released.
“The claim was issued yesterday,” said the judge. “With it was issued an application for urgent consideration, seeking expedition and a one day rolled up hearing by January 17 so that the claimant can consider the documents sought prior to the planning committee hearing the following week.
“I am not prepared to order such an expedition.”
The judge said Sainsbury’s wanted “very considerable expedition” involving rapid responses, a full day hearing and likely to involve “substantial consideration of legal privilege.”
Mr Justice Hickinbottom said he shared the council’s doubts that one day may not be enough and even if he was minded to allow the claim a hearing at short notice would be at the expense of other cases and other parties.
The judge said it was difficult to see how disclosure of counsel’s opinion to Fenland Council “could significantly assist” Sainsbury’s in preparation for the planning committee on January 23.
Given what Sainsbury’s already has to prepare for that meeting it renders “the basis of the expedition it seeks unsound.”
A council spokesman said: “We have received a Judicial Review issued by Sainsbury’s supermarkets in respect of their application for a food store in Whittlesey.
“However, the High Court ruled yesterday that the application for a hearing before January 23 is not necessary and that the judge stated that they were fully able to prepare for a planning meeting on that date.
“We continue to prepare for the planning committee meeting on January 23.”