A QUESTION mark is hanging over the future of Kendal Rugby Club after a supermarket plan for its Mint Bridge ground was thrown out by a government inspector.

KRUFC chairman Dr Stephen Green said the club had been left ‘devastated’ by the failure of the Sainsbury’s store planning appeal, which now leaves rival Tesco with a clear run for a supermarket at Canal Head.

The appeal was launched by developer Morbaine, which sought approval to build a 5,109 sq metre supermarket for Sainsbury’s.

But while the Shap Road project was supported by South Lakeland District Council’s planning officials, it was thrown out by councillors last November.

Had the Sainsbury’s scheme been approved, it would have financed cash-strapped KRUFC’s move to a new Strawberry Fields ground on Oxenholme Road and secured its long-term financial future.

Now KRUFC directors have called an emergency meeting tomorrow to reassess the club’s future.

“We are working on the assumption that Morbaine will now walk away from the deal,” said Dr Green.

“The club desperately needs to refurbish its facilities and we will now have to look for a plan B to achieve this.”

Dr Green said while the club was ‘asset rich’, it was ‘cash poor’.

"We’ve been planning to move for the last four years so you can imagine the planning appeal decision is pretty devastating," he said.

"Although we have planning permission for Oxenholme Road, it looks like we’ll now have to stay at Mint Bridge and try to refurbish the facilities as best we can.”

Planning inspector Martin Pike said guidelines meant an edge-of-town development, such as the one proposed at Canal Head, had to be favoured over an out-of-town development like Mint Bridge.

He said: “The appeal site is towards the northern periphery of Kendal and despite the bus service along Shap Road it is not an accessible site that is well connected to the town centre.”

In contrast, he said a supermarket at the Canal Head redevelopment, which is being led by Charles Crewdson, boss of Gilbert, Gilkes and Gordon, would link to shops in the town centre and have ‘potentially greater economic and employment benefits’.

Kendal councillor Graham Vincent said: “From an economic point of view, I believe the inspector has reached the best decision for Kendal.

"The last thing the town needs is another out-of-town supermarket which would impact on the viability of the town centre.”

A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said: “We are aware of the inspector's decision on Morbaine's rugby club proposals.

"Sainsbury's will now take time to consider the inspector's report.

"We remain committed to bringing a new store to Kendal.”

Morbaine said it did not wish to comment on the decision.