Tesco is under fire after it was revealed that it used a local retailer to front a planning application for a development in Barnstaple, Devon.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, the application for an 80,000 sq ft store was submitted in the name of local retailer Brian Ford’s, despite Tesco having acquired the independent retailer a year ago.

There is no mention of Tesco’s name in the application, but it is understood that the grocer has always intended to operate the store itself if the application is successful. Tesco has not broken any laws by not disclosing its involvement with the scheme, but rival retailers have described the tactic as underhand.

A spokeswoman for Tesco denied any wrongdoing or suggestion to mislead. “Brian Ford’s is a local family run company. They did not want to cause uncertainty to their staff until it was clear if these plans would progress,” she said.

“The motivation was not to conceal Tesco’s identity it was to help them maintain stability in their business. As it got closer to a planning decision we insured that the planning authority was informed that they would not operate the store.”

The North Devon District Council has been informed that it would be built and operated by a major supermarket chain and a decision could now be delayed as it prepares a new retail impact study.