Friends of the Earth (FoE) accused the retailer of using tactics to bypass regulations, pushing councillors and offering incentives to alter local plans. The group said local councils were powerless to resist the chain’s expansion.

Tesco insisted that it did not manipulate the system but FoE supermarket campaigner Robin Webster said: “Supermarkets like Tesco have such vast resources that local councils are not on an equal footing when it comes to negotiations.”

However, some councils are standing up to the giant. Barnet Council recently blocked an application for an Express store in Finchley, North London, as councillors said it would be detrimental to nearby town centres and it did not want to see the spread of “clone towns”.

The proposed Tesco Express site is already surrounded by several major supermarkets within a mile of one another, including a larger Tesco.

Aiuna Patel who owns Regent News, near the proposed site, was happy that Tesco had been turned down. “More competition from them would really affect us. I just hope they don’t appeal.”

A Tesco spokesman said: “The fact that there are so many disputes between retailers and local authorities goes to show that the planning system is slow and complex and not a pushover.”

Tesco Allegations

In Portwood, Stockport, Tesco built an Extra store that failed to comply with planning conditions

Tesco built a bulk storage facility in Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk, without planning permission

Tesco was fined £1,200 for repeatedly breaking conditions imposed on delivery vehicles in Merseyside

Tesco has 51% of the market in Inverness, but wants to build a fourth store