Twenty new 'big four' stores in Lancashire since 2008

Image caption,
The North West had the second-highest number of 'big four' supermarket approvals in the UK

At least 20 new stores from the UK's 'big four' supermarkets have received planning approval in Lancashire since November 2008, BBC research has found.

The North West had the second highest number of planning applications approved with 63, it showed.

All UK planning authorities were asked how many applications from Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Tesco won planning permission.

Planners approved at least 577 stores in the two years to 1 November.

The developments in Lancashire have been a mixed blessing, according to Brian Jackson, executive director for regeneration at Pendle Borough Council.

He said: "It is difficult for a small borough council in the northwest of England to resist a national and international rend."

Although there were fears that super stores can affect town centres, Mr Jackson said his council was hoping to encourage Tesco to set up in Nelson, even though a Tesco Metro closed there earlier this year.

"Having large store in a town centre does produce footfall which can benefit other smaller shops," he said.

Mr Jackson said planners were faced with the dilemma of trying to balance the needs of different retail enterprises in town centres.

But the major chains have also been accused of trying to circumvent planning legislation.

Councillors and planners tried to resist an application from Tesco to convert an old pub in the Layton area of Blackpool.

A planning application to convert the Windmill pub into a Tesco store was rejected by Blackpool Planning Committee.

But the former premises is now a Tesco Express, which did not need planning permission as it was only selling food and alcohol - the same as the pub and therefore it did not need a change of use approval.

"They sneaked in," said local councillor Sue Ridyeard who was involved in the campaign to block it.

"Layton is like a village and not only did we lose a pub we had this threat to our local shops," she said.

Although the store had collected passing trade, local traders felt their business had been more affected by the opening of a budget supermarket which was further away from the main shopping area than the Tesco store.

Tesco however maintains that it is giving people what they want.

"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," said a company statement.

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."

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