A LETTER to a council in support of a controversial new Tesco store in Yorkshire has been exposed as a forgery.
Now, Leeds Council is having to re-write to 600 people who supposedly also spoke out about the store to see if the forgery is one of many.
The deception was discovered when local resident Brian Roche received a receipt thanking him for his contribution to the planning consultation – even though he had taken no part in it.
The fake letter supposedly written and signed by Mr Roche has now thrown the planning process into chaos and hundreds of other documents are now being checked to ensure their authenticity.
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 backed by Tesco.
Leeds Council has contacted Tesco over the incident surrounding its proposed new store in the city's Oakwood district, and officers will now write to every resident who has written, either in support of or against the application.
Planners have so far received 629 letters from the public. Tesco say over 400 of these are in support.
Mr Roche said: "My name is 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?"
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."
Tesco 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."