Asda has launched an audacious bid to break Tesco’s dominance of the grocery market in Inverness. It has just launched a home-delivery service from its store in Elgin, 40 miles away from the original Tesco Town. The move comes as it awaits final approval for its planned store. A public inquiry into its proposals, which have received widespread approval from local residents and the local SNP MSP, Fergus Ewing, begins on Monday.

Ahead of the scheme’s expected green light, the retailer has widened its home delivery net beyond the previous boundary of Nairn to service Inverness and challenge Tesco’s dominance in the area. The vans have been fully booked since the service was launched two weeks ago, an Asda spokeswoman said.

“It wasn’t advertised, although we did send an e-mail to people registered on the website,” she said. “We’ve had massive local support, with a lot of people saying they want to see more choice. Apparently the drivers have been treated a bit like minor celebrities. People spotting our delivery vans have been asking whether the service will be extended further and when Asda will build a store in Inverness.”

Asda has already won the backing of local officials to build the store. Earlier this year, the council was inundated with 1,400 letters of support, with no objections. An unprecedented 137 members of the public showed up at the committee meeting in January to demand Asda receive planning permission.

Tesco already has three stores in Inverness and is fighting planning officials for a fourth. Late last year, it was refused permission following an unsuccessful appeal to the Scottish Government. The application was referred to the Government in March after the Highland Council threw it out as it went against the Inverness Local Plan’s retailing policy.

“Tesco has long been committed to Inverness and invested in Scottish Highlands when others were not prepared to,” said a Tesco spokesman.