RED tape is preventing supermarket giant Asda from opening a multi-million-pound store in Saltney - even though there's a Morrisons store up for sale in the town.
Asda had its eyes on the River Lane store and had applied to Flintshire County Council for planning permission for signage.
But its proposed bid - which would have seen the first Asda in Chester - has now had to be scrapped following a ruling from the Competition Commission.
Because Asda has a massive store in Queensferry, it is unable to buy the Saltney site under monopoly rules.
Under similar rules, Morrisons must sell its Saltney base by the end of the year, having taken over the 30,000sq ft Safeway in Upton.
Competition Commission guidelines stipulate 52 Morrisons stores must be sold nationally following the supermarket chain's acquisition of 480 Safeway stores.
Although there is no ban on Asda buying the former Safeway site, Morrisons is unlikely to sell its prime city centre site.
The tangled web - which would have seen Asda take on Sainsbury's in Caldy Valley and Tesco on Frodsham Street - leaves the future of the Saltney store hanging in the balance.
With a deadline of the end of the year, the puzzle remains unanswered.
A spokesman for Morrisons said: 'Our Saltney branch was included in a package of stores being sold to Asda.
'However, because of competition rules and regulations, we have been unable to do so and are now marketing that particular store once again.'
Residents in Saltney would have welcomed an Asda on their doorstep.
Such a move could have seen Morrisons bulldozed to make way for a supermarket with a large number of parking spaces.
The arrival of Asda would have given Saltney's economy a boost.
Asda spokeswoman Naomi Duggan said: 'Asda would love to come to Chester but we are unable to buy the Saltney site under Competition Commission rules.
'We were initially interested and someone jumped the gun and submitted a planning application for new Asda signage at the site. That application will now be withdrawn.
'Under competition rules, Morrisons has to sell either the Saltney or former Safeway site. We would be able to buy the Safeway site, although Morrisons are unlikely to sell it to us.
'We will not sell our Queensferry store to come to Saltney as it is a modern store. We want to come to Chester but cannot until we find a suitable site.'
Morrisons yesterday would not be drawn on potential buyers of the Saltney store.
Tesco and Sainsbury's are out of the running, having also been prohibited from bidding by the Competition Commission.
However, smaller chains such as Somerfield, Co-Op and Lidl are said to be interested.
A company spokesman added: 'The retail industry is so competitive that people will be clamouring to buy it. Closure has never been an option. Selling our Upton store, which has just been converted to a Morrisons, is not an option.'