GROCERY giant Tesco is poised to wrap up a scheme to convert a disused pub into its next Reading store - despite accusations from local businesses of bullying.

Reading Borough Council's planning committee is expected to rubber stamp the supermarket chain's retrospective application to extend the former Westside Pub in Tilehurst Road, west Reading, to create a Tesco Express on Wednesday.

The company bought the land soon after the Westside closed in June and can legally convert a pub into a convenience store without going down usual planning channels.

In April the previous owner was given permission for a single-storey extension and amendments to a garage, but despite work already being under way, a planning brief to councillors reveals it is "not in accordance with the approved plans in terms of the window and door openings" because a window has been blocked up and two windows replaced by a door.

Council officers are recommending the panel ratifies the plans, which also include an automatic cash machine, welcome signs and ramps for delivery vehicles.

The development has outraged local residents and businesses, including Sashi Bhatti of JR Newsagents in Tilehurst Road, who has gathered 400 signatures to petition against the store which she fears will put unfair pressure on her business. Within a mile there is already a Tesco Extra in Portman Road and another Express store in Oxford Road.

She said: "We don't want it to go ahead as it is going to affect our business. They are acting like big bullies."

Last year Reading Borough Council threw out an application for a Tesco Express on land at nearby Parsons Garage, Oxford Road, because it was an "intensification" of the site in an area close to Oxford Road Community School, two bus stops and the Prospect Street junction.

Tesco spokesman Simon Petar said: "Tesco have applied for retrospective planning permission for an approval received by the previous owner.

"We look forward to the minor works application going before the planning committee."