PROPOSALS to build a brightly-coloured children's play area outside Southampton's biggest shopping centre have been given the go-ahead.

Westquay has secured planning permission for a nautically-themed facility on a public plaza between the shopping complex and The Quays Swimming and Diving Complex.

The scheme, which includes a timber "ship", aims to increase the number of visitors to the area - and the amount of time they spend there.

The site is overlooked by a surviving section of the ancient walls that used to surround what was then the town of Southampton.

But the play area has been approved by the city council - despite "concerns" raised by Historic England.

A planning statement that formed part of the application said: "The proposed play area will create a further visitor attraction and increase footfall as well as increasing dwell time and improving customer experience.

"The area will create a high quality, multi-functional open space which will be accessible to all and can be utilised all year round.

"The proposals will help deliver a space which caters to the needs of all users and age groups and create a focal point within the existing plaza.

"The site will be managed by Westquay, both in regards to maintenance and security.

"While there will no opening hours as such, as the play area is located outside of the shopping centre, the existing management arrangements are considered sufficient to ensure safe and appropriate operation of the new facilities."

Historic England fears the play area will harm the setting of Southampton's medieval defences.

Its letter to the council said: "The walls, including eight gates and 29 towers, stretched for one and a quarter miles around the town. Now roughly half the walls, 13 of the original towers and six gates are still standing.

"This section is one of the highest and most complete.

"The heritage statement submitted with the application concludes that the impact of these proposals is limited. We would disagree.

"The plaza area has been designed to allow people the ability to get up close to the walls and see their detailed construction, and to stand further back and appreciate their scale and continuation.

"The siting of the play area will also detract from views that allow you to appreciate the scale of this impressive surviving section."