An investigation has been launched by planners after a letter of support for a controversial new Tesco store at Oakwood was discovered to be a fake.
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The letter, purporting to be written by a Leeds man, has thrown the planning process into chaos and hundreds of other documents are now being checked to ensure their authenticity.
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The probe was started after the resident's name, address and signature used on the letter sent to the planning department were found to have
Councillors fear the discovery could be the "tip of the iceberg" and have called for an urgent investigation into hundreds of supportive letters – a move which has been backed by Tesco.
Leeds City Council has contacted Tesco bosses over the incident and officers will now write to every resident who has written in either supporting or opposing the application.
The council has urged anyone who receives a letter of receipt for an application they have not written in about, to contact the planning department immediately.
Tesco bosses say their representatives were at the store on Roundhay Road, Oakwood, handing out 450 letters of support over three days. Some of the letters were left unsupervised.
Planners have so far received 629 letters from the public, both supporting and opposing the application. Tesco say over 400 of these are in support.
The plans would see the neighbouring Homebase demolished and replaced by a new Tesco superstore.
Many locals have been vehemently opposed to the plan, saying the new store would be double the size of the current one.
Brian Roche, of Shadwell, was only alerted after receiving a letter from Leeds City Council's Planning Services thanking him for his comments.
It stated that they would be "taken into account when making a decision."
Mr Roche said: "My name's spelt wrong and the signature is nothing like mine. I have never sent any letter in and I have never been to any meetings. This application is of no concern to me.
"They have had 600-plus responses so far - what percentage of those are the same letter that I got?
"This could affect the outcome of this application. What if it's someone just going through the telephone book?"
The letter is of a standard typed format with Mr Roche's name and address handwritten on a dotted line at the top. It sets out why he supports the application and asks for his comments to be taken into consideration by Leeds City Council.
Coun Valerie Kendall (Con, Roundhay) said: "This could be the tip of the iceberg. This latest development of the letter of support being apparently forged is very concerning and I will ensure that both the case officer and chief planning officer are aware of this so the extent of it can be investigated."
Objections are over the scale of the redevelopment, potential traffic congestion and its possible effect on the nearby Oakwood shops.
The supermarket says it would create 250 new jobs and secure the future for 300 existing staff.
It has been consulting on the scheme since 2006, changing its designs in response to the public.
Deborah Hayeems, Tesco corporate affairs manager, said: "Following
requests from customers who wanted to know how they could support the Tesco application for a replacement store, we spent a few days in the Roundhay store. We asked people if they knew about the application and if they did and supported the proposals. If they did, we asked if they would be happy to sign a preprepared letter.
"We are appalled that someone would abuse the system. We would welcome further information so that we can investigate how this could have happened and how it might be prevented in the future."
A Leeds City Council spokesman said: "We are aware that concern has been raised over one of the letters we received regarding this planning application. We are looking into the matter."