Tesco today defended its land bank position ahead of the Competition Commission publishing its findings next week.

The retailer hit back after a report on Sunday said that at least two of six members of the Competition Commission panel believed that the supermarket giant's portfolio of unused property prevented rivals from entering local markets. And that it could be forced into sales.

Lucy Neville-Rolfe, executive director at Tesco said: ‘ I would be surprised if the Competition Commission wanted to favour those who had called the market wrong in the past and hurt consumers by penalising competitive success.’

‘Tesco’s land pipeline reflects our flexible and innovative approach which goes with the grain of government policy. We build stores of different sizes, often in deprived areas and on contaminated land others won't touch and parcel together sites so we can invest in town centres, always taking risks on planning approval.

She added: ‘This approach is one our competitors-who seem to be behind this speculation- could have taken but chose not to!’

The Competition Commission is set to publish a paper next week on the ‘emerging thinking'’ on what the panel of experts have reached so far.

The Competition Commission last March found that Tesco held 55% of the 319 land bank sites it had identified.

The big four supermarket chains - including ASDA, Sainsbury's and Morrisons - control nearly three-quarters of the UK grocery market. Tesco has an estimated 31% market share.