A High Court judge has quashed Halton Council's decision to grant developer Prologis planning permission for a 1.2m sq ft warehouse at the Mersey Multimodal Gateway (3MG) after a judicial review won by parish councillors.
His Hon Judge Andrew Gilbart QC handed down his judgement at Manchester's Civil Justice Centre on Thursday morning.
Gilbart said Halton misinterpreted its own unitary development plan for the area by awarding consent for a large development on greenfield land before neighbouring brownfield plots at 3MG had been exhausted.
He also said Halton deprived Hale Bank Parish Council of the opportunity to participate effectively in consultation by unlawfully bringing forward the planning committee by a month to the middle of the summer holidays in August 2011 and not alerting consultees properly.
This amounted to a breach of Article 6 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and breach of Halton's Statement of Community Involvement.
The judge threw out counter claims by Halton that Hale Bank did not have authority to bring a judicial review and that it unfairly delayed development.
The judge also criticised the planning department of Halton for not addressing the Green Belt release issues in the officer's report to the planning committee.
The judicial review was heard over three days at the Civil Justice Centre at the end of May. Hale Bank was represented by Dan Kolinsky of Landmark Chambers, London. Halton was represented by Vincent Fraser QC of Kings Chambers, Manchester.
Halton had hoped to secure the land for Amazon and claimed the development would create 1,000 jobs.
Hale Bank Parish Council chairman, Cllr Colin Rowan, said today: "This is a matter that should never have come to court. It is a huge waste of public money in both legal costs and officer time and most importantly these jobs have now been lost to the borough of Halton.
"The blame for all this lies squarely at the feet of Halton Borough Council. Someone at Halton was so eager to push this through that they thought they could ignore the law and indeed, that they were above the law.
"Amazon should have been offered another site, such the one Halton started to offer them when they thought they might lose this case and that is [brownfield] Site 255 on Ditton Road, Widnes.
"Amazon did not need rail access as Halton claimed, they never did. We were also hugely disappointed that Halton's development partners, Prologis UK went along with Halton's dodgy plan. We invited them Prologis to come and talk to us, and, after originally saying 'yes' they suddenly changed their minds and declined."
Rowan said he hoped a full internal investigation will take place at Halton Council and that the Parish Council will now be writing to the District Auditor asking for an investigation into any inappropriately spent public funds.
He added: "The council-tax paying public of Halton deserve answers and apologies as do we, especially from the Leader of Halton Borough Council, Rob Polhill and their chief executive David Parr".
Cllr Rowan said he had also written to the Liverpool Local Enterprise Partnership asking why it had awarded Halton Council £5.4m of Growing Places Funding for the building of a road for the Amazon development.
Following the judgement, Cllr Rob Polhill, leader of Halton Council, said in a statement: "The council is disappointed that the court has found against the council in this matter and notes the comments made by the court, in particular that the court did not challenge the basic principle that future development of the site for employment remains appropriate.
"Local government is often criticised for delaying economic development and the creation of new jobs, therefore it is ironic that on this occasion Halton finds itself criticised for moving too quickly.
"Throughout this matter the council has acted in good faith and with one motivation, to bring new jobs to Halton and create employment for Halton residents.
"Irrespective of the legal arguments, the reality of this decision is that the intervention of the Hale Bank Parish Council and the subsequent decision of the court have resulted in the immediate loss of 1,000 new jobs in Halton.
"The council will continue to work towards the suitable redevelopment of this site and the creation of new jobs for Halton residents.
"In this respect, the infrastructure works required to bring the site forward, including the provision of a new site access, have already commenced and further site works will be undertaken to complete the new road access to the site in September. "
The market will now wait to see if Stobart, which gained consent for 1m sq ft on the brownfield part of 3MG earlier this year, will step in to deliver the distribution centre for Amazon.