CITY leaders have warned their powers to block new supermarket developments in York are limited, as campaigners claim more large stores will destroy local shops.

A petition signed by more than 1,600 people calling for no new supermarket developments - including Sainsbury's plans for a Hull Road store - to be approved without a public debate was last night submitted to City of York Council.

Businessman Graham Kennedy, who launched the campaign, said independent traders are one of York's strengths, but the growth of large and mini-supermarkets is endangering them. Osbaldwick councillor Mark Warters said a new Sainsbury's would create "traffic chaos", and Hull Road councillor Fiona Fitzpatrick raised concerns about its impact on Badger Hill shops and their community "relationships".

Council leader James Alexander said the authority was "restricted very heavily" over planning powers, while Coun Dave Merrett, cabinet member for planning, said competition could not be taken into account in planning decisions and some issues within the petition had to be debated in terms of national legislation.

However, Rural West York councillor Ian Gillies said planning rules were "deeply frustrating", saying: "Competition will always be there, but there must also be fairness."

A motion by the Liberal Democrats calling for an immediate end to the Lendal Bridge traffic trial had not been debated at the time of going to press last night.