Tesco bought a town centre through a front company and allowed it to become derelict as it tried to secure a regeneration deal, a report in today’s Times claims.

According to the newspaper, Tesco bought the town centre of Linwood in Renfrewshire and promised to redevelop it.

Its acquisition from the Edinburgh-based Balmore Properties came after a “Boot out Balmore” campaign by community leaders who complained that under its ownership, the precinct had deteriorated so badly that it was dubbed Scotland’s Basra.

But The Times claimed Tesco was intertwined with the centre since its inception, and the deal was designed to give Tesco a stronger case for securing approval for a lucrative regeneration scheme, while ensuring a lower price.

A Tesco spokesman told the paper: “Our plans will regenerate Linwood, bringing not only a Tesco store but many jobs for the long-term unemployed and a new health centre and library. Linwood town centre has been in decline for years, before our involvement, or the involvement of Balmore, and it is our plans that will reverse this and bring investment back to the area. Our carefully considered plans have been granted planning permission on their obvious merits and will create modern retail facilities for local people.”