The forecourt battle in the Irish Republic has intensified, with Tesco preparing to move into petrol and Esso announcing a E70m investment in convenience retailing. Tesco, the biggest player in the grocery sector, has applied for permission to build petrol stations alongside four of its stores ­ two in the Dublin area, one in Maynooth, County Kildare, and the other in Killarney, County Kerry. The company's first venture into the fuel business in the Republic is being vigorously resisted by the Society of the Irish Motor Industry, which has lodged planning objections. The society's chief executive Cyril McHugh warned:"If the company gets planning permission for petrol stations in Ireland it will wipe out small town retailing and petrol stations overnight." The issue is likely to be decided ultimately by the Planning Appeals Board. Forty-one of Esso's Dublin forecourts are to be equipped for food and drink sales. Ten are expected to be in operation by the end of the year. Esso's move into the fast-growing retail sector puts it in direct competition with Statoil, which has spent around E100m developing a 54-store network. Texaco is also in the field, having formed an alliance with the Superquinn. {{NEWS }}