Four sites operated by Top 50 Indie Javid Iqbal have been shut down without notice, amid reports the freeholder has fenced them off and begun removing pumps.

The four sites are all branded Essar, and are in Stoke-on-Trent.

Forecourt Trader was unable to contact Javid Iqbal for comment, but in a statement Essar said: “We have been informed by the dealer operating the retail stations at Endon, Fenton, Longton and Mossfield that his arrangements to lease the sites from the freehold owner have been terminated.

“Although this has been entirely beyond our control, we apologise for any inconvenience this has caused to our customers or to the communities local to the sites.

“We continue to supply high quality fuel from the Stanlow Refinery to the rest of our network of branded stations across the UK, including others in the Stoke area.”

Local press reports said residents had been shocked when the sites were closed down and fenced off. The Stoke Sentinel quoted one neighbour as saying: ““One minute it was open, the next it was shut. Within two or three days, all the pumps were ripped out.”

In March 2017 Javid Iqbal signed up five sites, which had previously been branded Esso, to the Essar brand. One site is believed to still be trading normally with Essar.