A LANDMARK deal worth almost £500 million could see the Solent become a “magnet” for businesses and create thousands of jobs.

Business minister Michael Fallon visited Southampton yesterday to formally announce £124.8 million of funding for the region over the next five years.

It means the long-awaited Stubbington bypass will become a reality, while it will also fund major upgrades of Southampton’s Red Funnel ferry terminal and two colleges in Hampshire.

And it is hoped that will result in £360 million of extra private funding being pumped into the region – resulting in a total of £484.8 million.

As previously reported, the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) had bid for £200 million from a Government pot of £2 billion to boost regional economies.

The LEP, developers and other firms will put in £150 million to create up to 17,000 new homes and major road improvements in and around Fareham and Gosport.

Red Funnel will invest in a £15 million upgrade of its ferry fleet, while its current terminal in Southampton will move around Town Quay to berth 50 to make way for the £450 million Royal Pier development that will provide houses, restaurants, bars, a hotel and a super-casino.

Hampshire will also benefit from the separate £118 million of funding handed to the Enterprise M3 LEP, which will be used to improve the A340 near Basingstoke.

Mr Fallon, who was also appointed Minister for Portsmouth after the announcement that 1,000 jobs are being cut at BAE Systems’ ship-building yard in the city, said: “This is investing in infrastructure essentially, this is freeing up the space for companies to come in and make their own investments on the back of the Government money.

“Here, we have got the local priorities chosen by local LEPs. Business leaders and local authorities across the Solent have said ‘these are our priorities which we want you to back’.

“The Solent will benefit from becoming a magnet for marine and maritime businesses in particular, which will benefit Hampshire.”

The news that the Stubbington bypass is set to be built has been greeted by Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage.

She said: “For decades, the Gosport peninsula has been in desperate need of an additional access road so the announcement of the first tranche of money to build a new access road is landmark news.

“Not only would this new road cut travelling times for long suffering commuters, it would also make our area more attractive to investors and help to create jobs locally.”

Southampton City Council leader Simon Letts said the extra Government cash was some compensation for the hundreds of jobs lost through the closure of the Ford Transit plant in Swaythling, and the impending closure of BAE Systems’ shipyard.

He added: “The package will allow us to move quickly forward with the relocation of the ferry terminals on both sides of the Solent.

“Moving the terminal is a crucial element to the Royal Pier development, the jewel in the crown of our city centre master plan.

“This will be a real shot in the arm for the tourism industry. This achievement is testament to the hard work of both councils and the LEP in securing the funding required to deliver our economic growth.”

Keith Mans, deputy leader of Hampshire County Council, said: “This is excellent news for Hampshire. “The LEPs have secured very strong growth funding awards to provide a robust platform on which to ensure the local economy prospers and the area continues to significantly contribute to the economy.”