WORK has begun to build a new flat complex in Central Southampton on the site of a former place of worship.

Chantry Hall in St Mary's was destroyed in a suspected arson attack in 2007 and the site has been empty ever since the destroyed building was torn down.

It had been earmarked as the site of a £10m ice rink, but those plans bit the dust in the recession.

But now work has started on the new £7.4m development, which will contain nine one-bed flats, 46 two-bed flats and four three-bed apartments.

And following an agreement between the city council and developer the Drew Smith Group, 40, of the 59 plats at the site in St Mary Strret will be affordable.

Local affordable housing provider Radian will own and manage the development, which is expected to be finished in spring 2016.

Daily Echo:

The Drew Smith Group's managing director Stuart Munro said: "The Chantry site has been derelict for a number of years and was in need of a fresh approach and new ideas.

"Drew Smith has gained a reputation of taking stalled sites and turning them into exciting residential developments that benefit the city.

"We worked closely throughout the planning process with Southampton City Council and would like to thank them for their continued support.

"We now look forward to working with Radian and completing much-needed affordable housing for Southampton."

City council cabinet member for housing Warwick Payne said: "The council doesn't want land sitting around doing nothing so whenever a site stalls we seek to work with developers and housing organisations to kick-start new homes for local families.

"I'd like to pay tribute to Drew Smith and Radian for stepping in to tackle this site, which has a difficult recent history, but hopefully now a good future thanks to their efforts.

"If you need evidence that Southampton is a city where you can get things done and get things built, look no further than this exciting project."