A SUPERMARKET chain has defended its decision to lodge an objection to retail plans that are integral to Saints' stadium dream.

Morrisons believes Tesco's aim to relocate from Chalon Way and build a large store alongside a new stadium at the former United Glass works in Peasley Cross should be rejected on planning grounds.

But the stadium developers have hit back with a robust defence of the proposals, insisting it will spark huge benefits to St Helens town centre.

Criticism of Morrisons' - which has stores at Boundary Road and Baxters Lane in St Helens - has been evident in letters to The Star and among Saints fans on internet messageboards.

Now Morrisons Main Board Property Director, Roger Owen says the company is "very disappointed to learn of the proposed boycott of our stores by Saints' fans" because of its objection.

Mr Owen, whose family has St Helens roots, says the opposition is "based purely on planning grounds" and certainly not "anti-rugby league sentiment".

He said: "Saints is still the first rugby league result I look for. I know that many of my colleagues, including our chairman, are extremely keen rugby league fans.

"None of that excuses the fact that all planning applications must be dealt with on their merits and within the parameters of planning law and planning guidance."

Mr Owen claims the application for the Tesco store is for a non-retail designated site and should be refused for that reason.

He added: "Setting aside all emotion and civic pride, the application should be judged on this factor and this alone. As such there can be no other outcome than to refuse it and these are the points upon which we have made in our objection. I also understand that other retailers are objecting.

"There are rules to all games and the rules must be abided by. There have been many instances where Morrisons have adhered to these same rules, but that is exactly what they are and they must be abided by and that is why we have objected."

However, John Downes, managing director of Langtree, the United Glass site's developers, said the plans would boost the town centre and allow a high quality shopping development to replace the current Tesco at Chalon Way.

He said: "This package of development schemes will change the face of retailing in the town centre to allow it to compete with Wigan and Warrington.

"Regeneration schemes such as this are wholly supported by Government Guidance and are in line with the St Helens Local Development Framework."

No date has been set for the planning application to go before St Helens Council and sources close to the plans say now they will not be heard in March.

ING real estate - the owners of Church Square shopping centre, in St Helens town centre, is also opposing the developments.