WORK on Southampton’s £15m Sea City museum is due to start on Monday.
Hoardings will be put up around the Grade II listed former Magistrates’ Courts at the Civic Centre while the ambitious project gets under way.
Final planning permission for the construction of the museum – the biggest redevelopment in the 78-year history of the Civic Centre – was granted by councillors yesterday.
They approved amendments to the plans to allow the Havelock spur road to remain open to taxis and coaches after it was revealed the council did not have the budget to build a planned paved piazza around the entrance.
Councillors insisted the spur road area was revamped within five years to avoid being left with a “scruffy corner”.
During construction the road will be closed for 70 weeks for use as the main compound for the builders Kier Southern.
The museum, due to open in time to mark the 2012 centenary anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic in which 549 Sotonians lost their lives, will be a central piece of an emerging cultural quarter.
But, despite winning a £4.6m Heritage Lottery Fund grant, Southampton City Council will need to borrow millions to make sure it is built on time.
It could see taxpayers paying substantial sums in interest payments.
A further £5m will be found through fundraising and just under £4m from selling unspecified leisure and heritage “assets”.
The Daily Echo revealed a controversial plan to sell off works from the city’s £180m, largely hidden 3,500 piece art collection, was shelved in February.
The old magistrates’ courts and central police station will be transformed into two permanent exhibitions, entitled Southampton’s Titanic Story and Gateway to the World.
The main entrance and exit to the museum will be through the existing grand entrance on Havelock Road.
The existing entrance will be remodelled for lower ground floor access.
Once it is built the landmark museum could be handed over to a private firm to run to make sure it turns a profit.
The museum will create hundreds of local jobs and boost the local economy by attracting 150,000 visitors each year.
Councillor John Hannides, cabinet member for leisure, culture and heritage, said: “It’s very exciting that all the necessary permissions are now in place which will allow contractors to go on site over the coming weeks. Residents will now see that after all the talk, the high-profile Sea City Museum is a reality.
“The museum will bring great pleasure and pride for Southampton’s residents. It will show case the city’s heritage and will be great for the economy, drawing thousands of visitors to the city every year.”