WHILE Southampton restaurant goers have been waiting for almost a year for a top TV chef to open at Westquay, 12 branches of a well-known chain are closing around the country.

As previously reported signs on the last empty unit at Westquay's south extension say Jamie Oliver's restaurant is "coming soon".

But those signs have been up for a year.

Now more than 200 jobs around the country are at risk with after a restructuring plan put forward by the celebrity chef was pushed through by creditors.

The closures are part of a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), which will allow the Jamie’s Italian chain to secure rent reductions on the remaining estate as well as exit unprofitable stores.

Staff are currently going through a consultation period, although the company will attempt to place some of those affected in other parts of Mr Oliver’s restaurant empire.

Jamie’s has 25 restaurants in the UK and 28 overseas. His Winchester restaurant closed in 2014.

Last year, Mr Oliver blamed a combination of rising Brexit cost pressures and tough trading when he shuttered six restaurants.

As well as staff costs and lower footfall, the group has been stung by the collapse in the pound, which has ramped up the cost of buying ingredients from Italy.

A total of 95% of creditors, including landlords, voted in favour of the deal on Friday.

The company said in a statement: “We are pleased to have received the overwhelming support from our creditors for our proposal to reshape Jamie’s Italian restaurants.

“We have a strong brand and are focused on continuing to deliver the levels of service, taste and the experience our loyal customers deserve.

“We are working hard to ensure that our estate is fit for the current trading environment and we feel confident that this newly shaped business will provide strong opportunities for growth and profitability.”

Jamie Oliver shot to fame in 1999 with his show The Naked Chef and an informal style of cooking. He is now understood to be worth more than £240 million.