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Fourteen Merseyside supermarkets approved in two years

Sainsbury's store
Image caption Planners approved at least 583 stores from the 'big four' supermarkets in the two years to November

The 'big four' supermarkets have had at least 14 planning applications approved on Merseyside since November 2008, BBC research has found.

The north west of England is the second fastest growing region, with 63 Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda or Morrisons stores gaining approval.

Planners approved at least 577 stores in the UK in the two years to November.

One of those recently approved is a Tesco store in Moreton, Wirral, which faced strong local opposition.

The store is set to be built on the site of The Plough Inn near Moreton Cross, the main crossroads in the town, and local residents fear it will lead to traffic problems and kill off local businesses.

The planned store is a few miles from a large Tesco Extra store in Bidston, and a few miles in the other direction is a Tesco Express.

Local people opposed to the store collected nearly 2,500 signatures on a petition calling for it to be refused.

But planning permission was granted after the council concluded there were no grounds for refusal.

Stuart Beeston, who owns Carousel Flowers opposite the site and led the campaign against the development, said: "When the new Tesco Express opens in spring next year there will be three Tesco stores within just a few miles of us.

"It is total greed on their part. In Claughton, a butcher who had ran his business for 30 years was forced to close down because a Tesco was built nearby.

"I don't want to see our local community, our local shops suffering like that."

A Tesco statement said: "Most of our new store applications are not for large supermarkets but for small, local convenience stores, the likes of which millions of customers have relied on to get food in the bad weather."

It added: "We have invested in the UK even during the worst recession in living memory, creating tens of thousands of jobs, many in the most deprived areas of the country."

Not all applications are being accepted though. About 12 miles away in Crosby, a £50m proposal to build a bigger store and regenerate the surrounding area was rejected by Sefton Council in September.

Sainsbury's wanted to build a 50,000 sq ft superstore in Moor Lane, with spaces for more than 400 cars.

It would have been three times the size of the current store, prompting complaints from some residents.

The decison to reject the plan was made as the development did not fit in with the character and style of the town.

The council said it "failed to respond positively to the character and form of its surroundings".

Katy McGrath, from campaign group A Better Crosby, said the large store would take away the character of the village.

She said: "It was treating our village as dead land, which we don't think it is. People use this land, Sainsbury's will make it faceless and take away the character of our village.

"We don't have a problem with big businesses wanting to expand, but it is not taking into consideration the community's needs.

"We don't think it is in keeping with the village's character - it would be better suited to an industrial estate."

At the time, Sainsbury's said it was extremely disappointed by the decision and was considering its options.

A spokeswoman added: "We're assessing the viability of a number of design options at the moment and we hope to be in a position to consult with the community and local stakeholders in Crosby in the New Year."

The BBC figures were obtained by researchers looking at the expansion of the big four supermarket chains.

They include all types of new outlet, such as small high street stores.

The North West had the second highest number of approved stores, behind London.

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