IT is looking increasingly likely that Tesco will win its fight to increase the size of its store in Abingdon by more than a quarter.

A report by Signet Planning consultants on the impact a bigger retail outlet might have on town centre trade says that in the absence of any alternative redevelopment opportunities, it would be difficult to refuse planning permission.

Traders claim a bigger Tesco would hit small independent town centre businesses, and say no one has the courage to take on one of the country's biggest and most successful retailers.

The Vale of White Horse District Council is expected to re-examine Tesco's application next January or February. In the meantime, the council will be considering the possible effects a bigger store, selling more non-food items, might have on plans to refurbish the Bury Street shopping precinct.

Council planning officer, Martin Deans, said: "Clearly, we will have to look at the report again in the light of the decision to improve the shopping precinct and anything that might compromise the plan."

The report by Signet follows an examination, earlier this year, by another team of consultants on the implications of a bigger Tesco store. The first report concluded that an enlarged store would not cause significant damage to town centre trade.

Signet looked at the possibility of Tesco building a smaller store near the town centre on the site of the cattle market car park. The report concluded that the site would not be viable, and would not be big enough.

Signet says the absence of any redevelopment in the town centre limits the ability of the council to refuse planning permission on the grounds of lack of retail need. Signet adds: "It is difficult to argue that the proposed extension to Tesco's store would adversely impact on future public and private sector investment."

The report has good news for the town centre though, and says: "There is currently a good level of retailer interest for representation in Abingdon town centre, which, due to the lack of shop units of a suitable size, quality, and configuration, cannot be satisfied. Conditions indicate a climate that is becoming more favourable towards re-development opportunities."

Abingdon Town Council is worried about the future for town centre traders. Some town and district councillors fear a bigger Tesco would add to the town's already congested traffic problems and could be a flood risk.

The president of Abingdon Chamber of Commerce, Jill Carver, said: "More disposable income will go to Tesco, and there will be less money for the rest of us to share."

Since it opened in 1982, the Abingdon store has become one of the most profitable in the country. It takes about £1.5m a week without fuel sales.

Tesco's case is that the extension is needed to relieve congestion due to "overcrowding and over-trading".