Tesco was this morning considering its response to the Government's decision to call in plans by its joint venture with Everton FC to redevelop Kirkby town centre.
The pair obtained planning permission from Knowsley council in June for a 50,000-seat stadium and 592,000 sq ft of additional retail, along with hotel, offices and public realm works.
The inquiry will delay the project by at least a year which, with rising construction costs and Everton FC apparenerly in turmoil, its chief executive leaving and chairman claiming the club is for sale in the past week, could jeopardise the scheme altogether.
Everton issued a statement expressing its disappointment at the decision: "Having spent more than two years working diligently on a project which would not only provide Everton Football Club with a new home but also regenerate Kirkby, we had hoped to avoid a Government call-in.
"Indeed, it was only in June that Knowsley Borough Council's Planning Committee voted by a majority of 20-1 to grant planning permission.
"We shall now engage in detailed discussions with our development partners, KBC and Tesco, to assess what options are open to us.
"It is important to stress that this decision does not spell the end of the Destination Kirkby project – but it will, self-evidently, precipitate a period of reflection, assessment and re-evaluation."
The leader of Knowsley council, Cllr Ron Round, said: "We are extremely disappointed as a public inquiry will delay the development – indeed this delay, in the current economic climate, places the entire project in jeopardy. From all of the consultation we have carried out, we believe that the majority of local residents are in favour of transforming Kirkby. The local elections in May this year gave the council a clear mandate to continue with the scheme.
"We have searched long and hard for years to attract the right investor to Kirkby and this scheme cannot be equalled. At this point in time, there is no plan B for Kirkby and no plan B for Everton Football Club. We will do all we can to keep the scheme alive and make sure the future of Kirkby is not put at risk."