Eight councils have lost their legal bid to prevent the construction of a giant out-of-town shopping complex near Manchester.
The House of Lords gave the go-ahead for the one million sq ft Dumplington development on a green field site at Trafford Park. They backed the proposals at the final hearing of a
series in which victory swung from one side to the other in succession.
Officials believe the ruling is a blow to authorities planning to oppose similar shopping developments - blamed for killing off commercial town centres.
The Lords upheld an appeal by John Gummer, the Environment Secretary, against a Court of Appeal ruling which overturned his approval of the scheme at the inquiry stage.
The plan was submitted by the owners of the land, the Manchester Ship Canal company, nine years ago.
Since then, the Government has recognised the dangers posed by large complexes on the outskirts of town and issued new planning guidelines.
But the councils are angered that Gummer paved the way for the Dumplington project even after Government thinking on out-of-town centres had changed.
David Kaiserman, a senior planner with Manchester, one of the eight authorities which fought Dumplington, says: "It renders ineffective everything that John Gummer claims to stand for in relation to policy on out-of-town shopping."
Critics of Dumplington believe it will drain custom from the city and local town centres.
A Department of Environment spokesman says: "The law says any planning application must be decided in the light of policies applicable at the time the plan was submitted."