VILLAGERS have been baffled by two supermarket giants seemingly going to war over their village pub.

Sainsbury's and The Co-operative both appear to be trying to take over the Hinds Head in Kingston Bagpuize.

The orange-branded big hitter won planning permission earlier this year to demolish the pub and build a new store there, a scheme welcomed by villagers.

But now Co-op has applied for a licence to sell alcohol at the same premises, without further explanation.

With hundreds of homes being built in the area and only a small One Stop convenience store, it is a prime location for a new supermarket.

Sainsbury's first revealed plans to open a store in the Crossroads Garage in the adjoining village of Southmoor in 2016.

Planning officers supported that bid but the district council planning committee threw it out, saying the store would be out-of-keeping with the quiet village.

Days later the company submitted its plans to open a store in the Hinds Head in Kingston Bagpuize, which is contiguous with Southmoor and shares a parish council.

The garage owner Jonathan Cliff, meanwhile, submitted a new planning application to convert half of his site into a 'local convenience store'.

Villagers speculated that Mr Cliff may be hoping to attract a new operator, for example the Co-op.

The Midcounties Co-operative then paid a local planning consultancy to write a report casting doubt on Sainsbury's plans for the Hinds Head.

Simon Sharp, senior planner at JPPC at Milton Park, said Sainsbury's proposals contained inaccurate data about traffic and had not given sufficient consideration to the design of the new shop frontage.

He urged Vale of White Horse District Council to refuse the application.

Then, in a surprising retort, a representative from Sainsbury's sent an equally-barbed response to the district council about the Crossroads Garage site.

Robin Ockendon from the company wrote to planning officers: "We can now confirm that we intend to occupy the Hinds Head site...however...we do not think that there is capacity for two new convenience stores in the area.

"Therefore, if the Crossroads Garage site is developed out as a convenience store, Sainsbury's will not proceed with a new local convenience stores at the Hinds Head site."

Sainsbury's was granted planning permission for its plan for the Hinds Head over the summer and has now submitted supplementary designs for signage to the Vale for approval, indicating that it is forging ahead with its plans.

The Co-op, meanwhile, has refused to clarify exactly what it is trying to accomplish at the Hinds Head with its licence application, and even the current pub manager said she did not know what was going on.

A spokesperson for the Midcounties Co-operative said in a statement: "We continually review our estate and look for suitable sites across our trading areas, to grow our food business and serve our members and customers.

"We continue to look for opportunities in and around the Oxford area and will communicate our plans at the appropriate time."