PLANS for a £70m flagship development to bring restaurants and a cinema complex to the heart of Southampton have received an enthusiastic thumbs-up from people in the city.

As revealed in yesterday’s Daily Echo, developer Hammerson hopes to transform the empty wasteland next to WestQuay Shopping Centre into a bustling leisure hub, featuring restaurants, a luxury cinema and potentially a bowling alley.

Initial reaction from the people visiting an exhibition to show off the proposals yesterday was positive.

Scores of shoppers and residents stopped off to examine artists’ impressions and a model of the plans, which were on display in the shopping centre, as well as talk to representatives from the international property investment firm about the Watermark WestQuay scheme.

Visitors were encouraged to give feedback on the proposals, which Hammerson’s development manager Guy Wells said would be used to finalise an initial planning application, which is expected to be submitted to the city council in February.

He said: “It’s been very positive. We’ve been busy since before 9am and we’ve had lots of people coming along and have had some very positive feedback.

“Lots of people have given us some good ideas and we’re pleased with how it’s going.

“The next stage for us is to take everybody’s comments, listen to those and incorporate any changes we need to so that we can lodge our planning application in the spring.”

Mr Wells said Hammerson is determined to turn Watermark, which has been nearly a decade in the planning, into a reality.

The firm hopes to complete the leisure complex first phase of the scheme by spring 2016, while a second stage – including a residential tower and offices or hotels – could follow within two years.