DEVELOPERS and money men are eyeing Southampton for investment chances after a £3bn masterplan to transform the city over the next 20 years was unveiled to hundreds of business leaders.

Council chiefs say they have been deluged with positive feedback and received investment inquires from national firms following the launch of the new vision for the city.

The masterplan sets out a blueprint for private investment to bring 24,000 new jobs and 5,000 new homes in the largest regeneration of the city in half a century.

The growth plan focuses on a prestigious new central Business district stretching from a new-look central station to a world-class Royal Pier waterfront.

Southampton council leader Cllr Royston Smith said the building blocks for the transformation were now in place and nearly £1bn of the projects were already in the pipeline.

Cllr Smith said there had been “significant expressions of interest from funders and developers” looking to pump money into masterplan projects.

He said: “We all know Southampton could be better. But everyone is now really up for it. I’ve spoken to lots of developers and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive.

They’re confident its do-able and on the money. We have positioned ourselves to become the city of the south coast.”

Cllr Smith said that while the masterplan may have its sceptics, 11 of 17 projects in a earlier £1.7bn “renaissance”

vision for the city, launched four years ago, were now in train or completed.

Major new developments in the masterplan worth more than £800m are already under way or about to start, including a £175m emerging cultural quarter featuring a new arts complex, a £150m extension to the WestQuay shopping centre, a new Morrisons hypermarket at East Street, and the £450m regeneration of the Royal Pier into a world class waterfront.

Ernie Battey, managing director of Morgan Sindall Investments, which is expected to sign a development agreement in June to take forward plans for the waterfront, said: “The location is perfect and the economic conditions are right in Southampton.”

City leaders hope these initial projects will spur on more investment in the city.

The £2.7bn masterplan was unveiled to an audience of more than 400 money men, developers, building firms, property professionals, retailers and business leaders from around the country.

Sally Lynskey, chief executive officer of Business Solent, a network of more than 200 leading employers, which organised the event with the council, said: “It was exciting to see the level of interest from potential investors and developers.”

Among the delegates was international entrepreneur and chairman of Boux Avenue Lingerie and Ryman Stationary Theo Paphitis. He gave the masterplan his full backing.

He said: “This is all about generating investment, jobs and growth for the city.

“If a city doesn’t have a plan like this, there’s no question in my mind it will suffer like the proverbial high street.”

Mr Paphitis said the city had a lot to shout about to attract new trade. He said: “It is a vibrant place with a real mix of people right across the spectrum.

“As a mass retailer, it is exactly what I am looking for.”

He added: “I like WestQuay, I visit the Boat Show and I like to see the football team – it’s a nice place to be.

“If I moved a bit further south this probably wouldn’t be a million miles away from my ideal place to live.”

The masterplan sets out seven key projects which will transform the city, guided by a vision to make Southampton a great place to visit, live and do business.

They include: n A central business quarter and major public square on the south side of the station with further development along West Quay Road n A new and extended Mayflower Park along with new shops, offices and leisure attractions around Royal Pier.

n A snowdome ski centre and new residential development on the council’s former Town Deport site on the Itchen Riverside n An extension of WestQuay shopping centre with a new multiplex cinema and the a redevelopment of new shops, bars, restaurants and cafes alongside Hoglands Park.

n A new fruit and vegetable market district spanning the Old Town, Holyrood and Queens Park n A vibrant cultural quarter around the new revamped Guildhall Square with a new arts complex, restaurants, cafes and hotel Consultants David Lock Associates spent months on the plans alongside the council, which spent £230,000 to commission a document which could shape planning policy for years.

Reponses to a public consultation on the masterplan will be taken into account before councillors approve a new statutory planning framework for the city centre to be used by the council to decide planning applications.