A LEADING planning barrister has labelled an alleged agreement between Shropshire Council and Lidl over maintaining confidential information as ‘unlawful’.
Anthony Crean QC, from Kings Chambers based in Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham, has a long history of obtaining planning permission for firms facing obstacles in applications.
Aldi has put in for planning permission for a supermarket in Wrexham Road, off the A41, with Shropshire Council yet to make a decision.
However, Aldi and rival retailer Lidl have been trading legal letters through documents submitted to the council over recent weeks, concerning the credibility of evidence provided by the companies.
This refers to what impact the opening of an out-of-town Aldi store would have on Lidl’s trade.
Aldi has insisted Lidl is overtrading at its Bridgewater Street store, while Lidl offered to share confidential trading data with Shropshire Council.
But in a letter published on the county council planning portal on Monday, Mr Crean’s opinion is that any such a confidentiality agreement would be ‘farcical, absurd and patently unlawful’.
He said: “Lidl are anxious to persuade the council their store is not trading above company average levels and is therefore vulnerable to closure from trade diversion from a new and more attractive offer.
“They have therefore provided the council with data which (they say) supports their position. They have forbidden the council from sharing this information with the public and Aldi.
“Perhaps the most ludicrous part of this farcical, absurd and patently unlawful arrangement is the council appear to be willing to go along with it.”
He added: “Anyone with the remotest grasp of public administration must know the actions of a public authority are governed by law and that the most important obligation on decision making by a public authority imposed by law is that all decisions must be rational.
“If the council receives the secret information from Lidl and keep it secret and take it into account then they are not being transparent, they are being opaque; they are not being fair, they are being unfair; they are not being rational, they are being irrational.”
A Shropshire Council spokesman said: “This material will be considered as part of the planning process about this application.”