CONSUMER groups, union leaders and farmers have welcomed a move to let Morrison's bid for rival supermarket chain Safeway.
Bradford-based Morrison's got the go-ahead from competition watchdogs yesterday to pursue its takeover bid for Safeway.
Morrison's has a supermarket at Waterloo and Safeway at Meltham.
The Competition Commission blocked bids from Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda's owner Wal-Mart.
Morrison's could still face a shoot-out with retail tycoon Philip Green, who is also interested in bidding for Safeway.
Philip Evans, principal policy adviser at the Consumers' Association, said: "A successful Morrison/Safeway combination provides British consumers with an effective fourth supermarket choice.
"The fact that Morrison's is a low-cost, low-price operator will boost competition in areas where Safeway currently operate."
Jill Johnstone, head of policy at the National Consumer Council, said: "This is a sound decision and good news for shoppers.
"We're particularly glad that close attention has been paid to potential problems at a local level.
"Keeping strong competition locally is what makes sure that consumers have real choice and better value for money."
Robin Tapper, head of marketing at the National Farmers' Union, said a bid by Morrison's was the best prospect for suppliers.
He said: "Farmers will not be thrilled about the prospect of further concentration of retail power in the food chain.
"But Morrison's has a good understanding of British agriculture and a strong commitment to regional and local sourcing."
Sir Bill Connor, general secretary of shopworkers' union Usdaw, said a Morrison's/Safeway merger was in the best interests of the 34,000 union members who worked for the two companies.