Objectors to the decision to grant planning permission for a John Lewis superstore in County Antrim have been granted leave for a judicial review.
John Lewis will locate at Sprucefield
The retailer was given the go-ahead in June for a £40m store at Sprucefield, outside Lisburn. This was against the advice of Planning Service officials.
Mr Justice Girvan told the six groups who applied for the review that there was a case for further consideration.
Traders in Belfast and Lisburn fear the new store would harm their businesses.
Despite the court action, John Lewis is pressing ahead with its plans, which would create 1,000 jobs, and it aims to open by Christmas 2007.
Belfast City Council and the Chamber of Trade and Commerce combined to mount the joint High Court challenge to the planning approval, as have Lisburn Chamber of Commerce and the city's Bow Street Mall.
The other challengers are Central Craigavon Ltd., and AM Developments Ltd., the Dutch company behind the £300m Victoria Square project in Belfast.
NIO Minister Lord Rooker granted the planning permission, saying it was in the "best interests of the people of Northern Ireland".
But if his decision is overturned by a judge, John Lewis has made it clear it will not consider any other site in Northern Ireland and instead will look at offers it has received from Dublin.
When planning approval was given, the London-based company said Sprucefield was the "only viable location" for its store in Northern Ireland.
It ruled out Belfast city centre, saying it could not sustain a full-range department store.
Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce has said that nobody except the developers was supporting the planned development.
It said the operators of shopping centres in Lisburn, Banbridge and Newry would be affected by the massive retail development, as well as Belfast.
The full judicial review hearing is expected to take place later this year.