SUPERMARKET giant Morrisons has pulled out of plans to build a huge new store in Southampton which would have brought 400 jobs with it.

But despite the news being described as a "blow" for the city, there are hopes hundreds of jobs will still be created at the East Street site with other firms already bidding to take it on.

The new supermarket was supposed to replace the unloved, dilapidated East Street Shopping Centre when plans were approved more than two years ago.

The old 1970s-era centre was torn down in preparation to make way for the 60,000sq ft supermarket but construction work never began on site.Daily Echo:

Daily Echo:

Morrisons had said the new store would create 400 jobs as well as providing new car parking and a pedestrianised link between St Mary's and the city centre.

Daily Echo:

Daily Echo:

But doubts about it began to emerge last year after the landowner, the De Stefano Property Group, went bust, and intensified after Morrisons announced plans to close loss-making stores while long-standing chief executive Dalton Philips stood down amid worsening trade figures.

Despite repeated questions from the Daily Echo over the future of the site, Morrisons refused to say whether it was pulling out of building the new store.

But now the firm has finally confirmed that it will not be completing the new supermarket.

A Morrisons spokesperson said: “Regrettably we have had to bring to an end our involvement in the East Street development.

"This was a difficult decision for us but following a number of setbacks for the developer we will not continue with the proposals for a new store.

"We understand that this is a disappointing outcome but would like to thank the community for their support.”

Administrators KPMG are currently handling bidding for the site, with four or five firms understood to have put offers in.

Hampshire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stewart Dunn said: "It is a blow, we're interested in the regeneration of that site as it's vital to have a strong attraction to that end of the city.

"Obviously Morrisons would have provided an anchor at the end of East Street, it would have been a huge benefit to residents and a huge drawer that would help support the city council and give further economic value to East Street.

"We look forward to the announcement on plans as to what exactly will be going on the site in the future."

Referring to the bids that have already gone in for the site, city council leader Simon Letts said: "What it shows is that there is confidence in Southampton as a place to come and do business in.

"There were four or five bids for the site and it is a competition so we are pleased that people are prepared to put forward some money for the site."

Morrisons said its plans for a new supermarket at Centenary Quay in Woolston, that would create 200 jobs, were still going ahead as planned and the new store should open later this year.

Life president of the firm Sir Ken Morrison has now urged the shareholders of the firm to "be patient" with the new management team of chief executive David Potts and chairman Andrew Higginson to allow them to restore the company's fortunes.