City councillors have said empty units in Southampton centre that previously held big brands are likely to be converted into housing as the high street adapts to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Online shopping during lockdown is said to have "accelerated" the decline in high street shopping, though planning bosses have maintained that Southampton "will remain a strong regional centre" post-COVID.

Big names that have vanished from the high street include Topshop and Debenhams, which announced in April that it would not be re-opening after lockdown, leading to a loss of 106 jobs.

Plans for a £100m housing, retail and leisure development Bargate Quarter have also been adapted to include 287 more houses than originally planned (a total of 500), with a lean to residential use predicted to continue.

Bargate councillor Sarah Bogle said: "Southampton will continue to have a strong retail offer but probably more concentrated, so for example the Debenhams site is I think more likely to be converted to residential or another use.

"The changes that were already happening in retail with increasing levels of online shopping in particular, have accelerated hugely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and I can’t see things returning to what they were."

Commenting on the number of empty units in the centre, Giles Semper director of Go! Southampton, the city's Business Improvement District, said Southampton is fairing better than other cities.

He said: "Our vacancy rate is currently running at about 14% but around one-third of these units are under development.

"This would put us below the national average figure which was 12.4% at the end of [June]."

Councillor Steve Leggett, Cabinet Member for Green City & Place said: "[The council's] focus is on a collective effort working with GO! Southampton and other partners to support on-going trading in the city centre and district centres whilst ensuring that public health remains the highest priority.

The council is currently reviewing plans made in 2015 for the city centre "[taking into] account of all likely short and longer-term retail trends as part of the post-Covid recovery, reflecting Southampton’s importance as a regional shopping centre [and] the need for new homes."

Mr Leggett said current plans support "retail-led mixed use developments" in the city centre and any future plans "will need to promote a healthy mixture of shopping, leisure, commercial and residential ensure it draws a mix of people and activity and presents as a vibrant and attractive destination for years to come. "