PLANS to redevelop a former college site as a retail park could be threatened by a legal challenge by a rival shopping centre.

Developers Quora (Peterlee) Ltd have planning permission for the scheme to redevelop the former East Durham and Houghall College site in Peterlee with retail units, set to be occupied by Lidl, Home Bargains, Starbucks and KFC.

But Praxis, owners of Castle Dene Shopping Centre, in the town centre are trying to challenge Durham County Council’s decision to grant the scheme planning permission.

The company has twice been refused permission to bring their judicial review claim and has lodged an appeal with the Court of Appeal in London.

Easington MP Grahame Morris accused Praxis of blocking development in Peterlee.

He said: "Castle Dene Shopping Centre (Praxis) is blocking investment in Peterlee. We lost a Tesco supermarket because of their legal challenge, and they are using the same tactics to stop this retail park.

"Praxis should not pitch themselves against the best of interests of the community and Peterlee residents, who welcome the investment, regeneration, and the potential new jobs the retail park will bring.

"The retail park will attract more footfall to Peterlee, with more people using the Town Centre, and facilities, if they provide the shops and amenities people want.

"Praxis should focus on improving its own retail offering rather than stopping others from investing in and backing Peterlee.”

Members of Durham County Council have said the legal challenge could threaten investment in Peterlee.

Councillor Audrey Laing, ward member for Peterlee East, said: “Together with local residents I have been campaigning for the re-development of this site for many years. Peterlee is a growing town and deserves excellent facilities. Previous developments for the site have been thwarted by Praxis and I am shocked at this continual challenge.

“I find it incomprehensible that anyone would object to new jobs and investment in the town. Residents tell me they want more and a better choice of shops and I strongly believe that this development would give a much needed boost to the local economy.”

Councillor Carl Marshall, cabinet Member for economic development, said: “It is incredibly disappointing that something which would attract additional investment into the town is being challenged.

The Northern Echo:

“The scheme would give a much-needed boost to Peterlee town centre at a time when town centres are struggling. New jobs and additional investment are now threatened as a result, along with the future of existing retailers in the town.

“Many areas of the county are crying out for investment and would love such a scheme, it’s almost like they don’t want the town to develop.”

The site in Burnhope Way has been unused since East Durham College vacated it in 2009.

Tesco was given planning permission to develop the land in 2011 but the company later pulled out of the scheme.

Quora was given permission for the latest £16m development, which is expected to create 120 jobs, in March.

Two of the retailers set to move in at the new site - Lidl and Home Bargains, which has a shop in Castle Dene Shopping Centre - have said they will leave their current bases in Peterlee.

Praxis initially submitted an application for a judicial review to the planning court in Leeds.

This was refused for a second time following a renewal application.

Praxis has now appealed to the Court of Appeal and is awaiting the outcome of the challenge.

In November, the company was involved in the launch of a group called Protect Peterlee Town Centre, which was campaigning "to protect the interests" of the town centre and accused Quora of "enticing" retailers away. 

The Northern Echo has contacted Praxis and Castle Dene Shopping Centre for a comment.