Musgrave executive chairman Eoin McGettigan told GrocerToday that although the horse had already bolted in relation to Tesco and T&S, the onus was now on the OFT to instigate a market investigation into the top-up shopping market in the UK.

McGettigan is disappointed by the news that the OFT had cleared Tesco’s bid for T&S Stores and that the “narrow confines” of the regulatory regime had made it difficult for the OFT to block such a deal.

He stressed that this was not going over old ground already covered by the Competition Commission two years ago.

"This is a different issue to the supermarket sector which the Competition Commission looked into," said McGettigan, who took the helm at Budgens in July.

“Budgens understands why the OFT has made the recommendation it did, based upon a narrow and, we believe, out-dated definition of the grocery market in the UK. However, new powers under the Enterprise Act, which come into force next year, will allow it to take a broader and more considered view."

Last month Budgens argued the deal would lead to a reduction in competition enabling Tesco to exert pressure on suppliers to impact on gross margins.

Tesco has welcomed the OFT announcement and said: “The combination of Tesco and T&S will deliver significant benefits to T&S customers and will bring the Tesco shopping experience to a larger number of neighbourhoods.

“These consumers will benefit from lower prices overall, improved service and store environment and better product availability, quality and choice.”

Tesco will convert around 450 T&S stores to the Tesco Express format over the next three or four years, a further 400 will trade under the existing One Stop and Day & Nite brands. While the T&S-owned Dillons newsagent and Supercigs tobacconist chains will be sold.