A NEW multi-million- pound vision to resurrect one of Southampton’s long derelict industrial heartlands creating hundreds of jobs is a step closer, the Daily Echo can reveal.
The former Vosper Thornycroft shipyard in Woolston is being earmarked for a world-leading manufacturing complex that would make materials for the next generation of bridges, under-sea pipes and engineering works.
The Solent area has been earmarked for a satellite base of the Bristol-based National Composites Centre which manufactures composite materials for use in aircraft parts, vehicles and satellites.
The proposed Solent Large Structures Centre will have the space to accommodate research and construction of materials for much bigger structures in the marine, maritime, oil and gas and construction industry.
The National Composites Centre is already carrying out a feasibility study for a centre somewhere in the region ahead of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills for the initial funding which will have to be topped up with private investment.
Now Southampton City Council has put forward the former shipbuilding site on the banks of the River Itchen at Centenary Quay as a preferred location before submitting a full planning application.
It follows the city losing out to a bid from rival city Portsmouth to redevelop the area for Sir Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup base.
Yesterday Portsmouth civic chiefs confirmed they were not bidding for the composite centre.
Civic leaders have applied for £50million of Government funding to rejuvenate manufacturing in the Solent following a devastating swathe of job losses.
More than 500 posts were axed when Ford ceased production at its Swaythling plant, while around 300 Southampton workers lost their jobs when BAE Systems axed shipbuilding in Portsmouth.
The Government is expected to announce its decision in its Autumn Statement pending the results of the 12-week feasibility study which is being carried out with the University of Southampton.
Southampton City Council leader Cllr Simon Letts hopes construction can begin by December of next year on the site which already has planning permission for manufacturing use.
He told the Daily Echo: “This is a chance to get a head-start in a technology which will shape the future.
“There is a potential for hundreds of jobs with high quality posts in both research and engineering.
“We have a long history of manufacturing in Southampton.
“If we can develop the cutting edge in composites here we can establish a renaissance.
“It will be the next phase in the long and distinguished history in the city.”
Cllr Letts pointed out it benefits from deep water anchorage and nearby rail and road networks.
If accepted he hopes to employ graduates from both Southampton and Solent universities and says many former BAE workers already have the skills to work there.
He said it was likely to replace previous plans to develop the site solely for shipbuilding adding: “It’s better to have a bird in the hand rather than two in the bush.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Business Innovation and Skills said it could not comment on individual bids.