Preston City Council and developers Grosvenor and Lend Lease must wait to see if the £700m retail scheme is called in for a public inquiry after the outline planning application was granted consent.
The 300-page application was unanimously approved by the council's planning committee after a two-day hearing. The decision will now be referred to Government to decide whether a public inquiry should be held. The Government must assess concerns over its scale and impact on neighbouring towns and claims from critics it diverts from existing policy.
Neighbours including Blackburn and Blackpool councils have objected to the plans – Tithebarn will total 1.6m sq ft – are too large for central Lancashire and will have a draining effect on retail markets outside Preston.
Tithebarn is anchored by John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Cineworld. As well as retail it will include 20 restaurants, a refurbished market, 550 new homes, bus station, a health and fitness centre and 2,700 car parking spaces.
Grosvenor and Lend Lease's joint venture, Preston Tithebarn Partnership, said in a statement: "Preston Tithebarn Partnership is delighted that Preston City Council has resolved to grant planning permission for this major regeneration scheme, which will transform Preston and create a modern, vibrant and sustainable city centre.
"This is an important milestone for the project and for the City. We now await a decision by Central Government on whether it wishes to call in the application."
Cllr Ken Hudson, leader of Preston City Council, said: "The committee considered in-depth studies and very detailed and comprehensive reports which showed an overwhelming case in favour of Tithebarn. It took into account all the representations which were submitted following consultation. This is a great development for Preston, for Lancashire and the North West as a whole. It is vital for the regional economy that Tithebarn is allowed to proceed, especially in the current economic climate.
"We hope the Government is persuaded by the very clear arguments in favour of Tithebarn and allows the development to go-ahead, without the need for a costly and unnecessary public inquiry which could potentially put the whole development at risk."
Jim Carr, chief executive of Preston City Council, added: "This is a positive step forward but we now await the Government's decision with baited breath. All the evidence shows that Tithebarn is the right development for Preston and for Lancashire. It is firmly in line with national, regional and local planning policy so there is simply no need for a public inquiry. We hope the Government will be persuaded by all the evidence and allows the Council to grant planning approval, as it will provide a much needed boost to the North West economy."