THE future of Lancashire County Cricket Club could have been thrown into doubt if a crunch legal case about its development plans had gone against it.

That was the stark message from the club’s relieved chief executive, Jim Cumbes, after he heard that the legal judgement had gone in Lancashire’s favour.

That paves the way for Lancashire to press on with £32m plans to redevelop its ground to bring it up to Test -match standard.

The development is part of a joint application that will see a Tesco superstore open in the area. Tesco will provide the bulk of the funding for the Old Trafford ground improvements.

Mr Cumbes also revealed the planning process and delays caused by legal wrangling have left Lancashire nearly £5m out of pocket.

The Red Rose county has had to fork out £1.6m on planning fees and advice; while delays on the project have led to a North West Development Agency (NWDA) grant being cut from £7.2 m to £5.2m.

Another £1m grant from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Sport England has been lost, to extend the indoor cricket school at Old Trafford - although the club says it still intends to complete the work.

He said the consequences if the case had gone against Lancashire “did not bear thinking about.” It was brought against Trafford Council by Derwent Holdings who were refused permission to open a supermarket in the area.

Mr Cumbes continued: “Clearly there would have been no international cricket in the north west.

“It would have put the club into a very difficult position even to continue as a county club.”

Mr Cumbes said the financial losses caused by the delays would have hit any cricket club.

He admitted he felt a “huge sense of relief” that the club could continue with its plans to redevelop the ground. With an expected completion date of April 2013, it could bid for a 2013 Ashes Test.

Two thirds of the ground redevelopment cost will be covered by £21m that Tesco will pay to buy a plot of local authority land near the ground, where it will build a new superstore. The £5.2m grant from NWDA and other smaller grants mean Lancashire needs to find another £2 to £2.5m to fund the scheme, although Mr Cumbes was confident the club would raise this.

He said that if there was a further legal appeal against this latest ruling by Derwent Holdings it “could only be regarded as vindictive and spiteful.” Derwent has 21 days to apply for the right to appeal again from the day of the judgement, March 10.

Derwent, owners of White City Retail Park, brought the Judicial Review against Trafford Council’s decision to approve a joint multi-million pound scheme for a Tesco superstore and to redevelop Lancashire’s Old Trafford ground. Derwent’s own plan for a Sainsbury’s supermarket in White City Retail Park was rejected on the same day last March.

Tesco says its store will provide 500 jobs, half of them reserved for the long-term unemployed.