A JUDICIAL Review which will affect whether Bristol Rovers FC can afford to build South Gloucestershire’s first ever stadium got underway today at the High Court.

His Honourable Mr Justice Hickinbottom will hear arguments for and against Bristol City Council’s decision to approve planning permission for Sainsbury’s to redevelop the club’s current home, the Memorial Ground in Horfield.

TRASH (Traders and Residents Against Sainsbury’s Horfield) has brought the legal action, paid for by themselves and through donations, because it believes the plans were not considered properly and fairly and councillors did not have all the facts available before making a decision on June 14 last year.

Their objection to the scheme centres around their fears that a supermarket would take trade away from the independent stores on Gloucester Road.

If they win, Bristol Rovers has said it will not be able to fund a 21,700-seater stadium on the University of the West of England’s campus in Stoke Gifford, which has already been granted planning permission by South Gloucestershire Council.

At the hearing at Bristol Civil Justice Centre, the lawyer representing TRASH said a report prepared independently by planning consultants GVA had not been accurately reflected in the planning officer’s recommendation to Bristol City Council’s development control committee.

He said: “GVA provided a careful, independent, qualitative analysis and drew concerns about the relationship of the proposal to Gloucester Road. Clearly it does contain an endorsement that Gloucester Road will continue to be good and healthy.

“GVA actively says existing stores could lose £7.7million which would reduce revenue by 12 per cent. It says this level of store impact means store closures cannot be ruled out and shows particular concern for the Co-op.

“But the report says officers do not consider the proposal would result in significant harm to the viability and vitality.”

He asked what the point of employing planning consultants was if the council did not act upon their findings.

Last week a 13,000-signature petition was handed into Downing Street in support of plans for the Sainsbury's.

A couuncil spokesman said: "Bristol City Council is defending its grant of planning permission, which it maintains was entirely lawful.

"The council is inviting the court to dismiss the judicial review challenge."

Rovers chairman Nick Higgs, who was in court, has spoken angrily against the delay to the club’s plans for a new £40million stadium.

The hearing is expected to last until tomorrow.