The Old Trafford farce that isn’t funny

Lancashire’s bid to redevelop Old Trafford is starting to resemble the scene with the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail – although it is impossible for anyone involved to see the funny side.

Derwent Holdings – the company whose application for planning permission for a supermarket at White City was rejected by Trafford Council when Tesco were given the go-ahead for the store that is central to Lancashire’s proposals – have suffered a series of legal defeats, most recently at the High Court in Manchester when they were also denied permission to appeal.

But they continue to dismiss them all as mere flesh wounds, and their latest application to the Court of Appeal in London has caused another delay – at best disruptive, and at worst disastrous – to Lancashire’s plans.

The county conceded even when they celebrated their High Court victory at the start of this month that “it will be tight” to ensure that the redeveloped ground is ready to stage a Test in the 2013 Ashes series – which is essential in the lengthy process of repairing the financial damage caused by the various legal actions and delays they have so far encountered.

Now they are in limbo again, with a danger that the Court of Appeal could take up to three weeks to rule on Derwent’s latest application.

Lancashire are due to meet with England and Wales Cricket Board officials at Lord’s next week to convince them that awarding a 2013 Test to Old Trafford would not be a risk, and they have a further pressing deadline as the £5.2m grant they were promised by the now-defunct North West Development Agency is contingent on work starting by April 20.

“Derwent have made life extremely difficult for us all the way,” said Lancashire’s chief executive Jim Cumbes. “I am pretty confident of the outcome because the judgement from the High Court was so concise that there are no grounds for an appeal.

“But I expected it because it is the way Derwent work. They don’t like losing and it is dragging things on for us.

“Derwent have made so many attempts to derail our project and have been thwarted convincingly at every stage. But we remain totally confident that, although they will attempt absolutely everything due to seemingly unlimited financial resources, we shall succeed eventually.”

Meanwhile, Derwent have not made any public comment since their High Court defeat.

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