SUPERMARKET chain Safeway is considering setting up a major non-food store in Northallerton.

The firm wants to create 40,000sq ft in retail warehouse units with parking and servicing facilities at Willowbeck Road.

Two other firms are also interested in that area. B&Q wants to move to the site of the Sundial Hotel, and Rokeby has a DIY store project in the pipeline, with links to the Safeway plan.

Hambleton Disitrict Council has received an outline application for the Safeway construction.

Head of development control, Maurice Cann, said this week that Safeway's interest in the site went back ten years or so when the store wanted to relocate from its high street position. "The issue culminated two years ago with the council approving a scheme for a supermarket there subject to a legal agreement relating to drainage and contributions for infrastructure," he said.

"The firm declined and there was a contractual dispute between Safeway and their agents. But time has moved on and we have now told them the prospect of getting food store approval has been removed."

Safeway has come back with an application for bulky goods units, in conjunction with a scheme by Rokeby for a joint venture.

Mr Cann said the council had received a revised plan from Rokeby indicating a 25,000sq ft DIY store in that area with a single access point as a joint enterprise. "There would be no food element at all," he said.

The earliest the Safeway scheme could come before Hambleton planning committee is April. The firm has already submitted a detailed flooding assessment.

Mr Cann said the council had said as a broad principle it would be supportive. As far as he understood, the high street store would remain. The Willowbeck Road site issue had been active in terms of Safeway long before the Morrison's takeover bid for the chain.

"But there is an edge to the scheme with the plan for B&Q to move on to the Sundial Hotel site," said Mr Cann. "They have gone to appeal on that application and the issue will be decided by a public inquiry in June.

"An identical application has been submitted which will be considered.

"So there could be B&Q, Rokeby and Safeway involved in schemes for that part of town."

l MORRISON'S shareholders gave overwhelming approval for the merger with Safeway at an extraordinary general meeting on Wednesday.

Sir Kenneth Morrison, executive chairman, was confident the businesses could be integrated "swiftly and effectively."

Assuming regulatory approval is granted, dealings in new Morrison's shares are expected to start on the London Stock Exchange on March 8.