COUNCIL chiefs have agreed to use a complex legal manoeuvre to make sure a £70 million, 1,000- room student village in Southampton city centre can go ahead despite blocking the light of neighbouring properties.

Developers, in partnership with the University of Southampton, want to build three blocks of student flats up to 15 storeys high at the boarded up Mayflower Plaza site off Commercial Road, but could face a court injunction from neighbours over the loss of light.

Osborne Developments and landowner Terrace Hill told the council that the rights of light enjoyed by the owners and occupiers of premises in the north of Commercial Road, Wyndham Court, The Mayflower theatre , and BBC, were a “significant risk to stopping or impeding the development.”

To avoid that risk, the city council has agreed to invoke little used planning powers that allow development to take place despite rights of light being interfered with, if compensation is paid to neighbours and the scheme can be said to boost the environmental, social or economic wellbeing of the area.

To use the powers under the Town and Country Planning Act the council will have to buy the site, which will then be sold back to developers at a later date – all for nominal sums.

The developer will fund the compensation payments and meet all the costs of any conveyancy fees and duties. Council leader Richard Williams said: “This administration was keen wherever possible to enable and facilitate development.

“We are using our powers in order to try to liberate a piece of land that has been under developed for 15 or 16 years. We want to see economic development in the city and we certainly want to facilitate that.”

Plans for an £80 million development of 180 apartments, a striking seven-storey office block and hotel, called Mayflower Point, were given the go-ahead by councillors nearly four years ago but a failure to find tenants for the offices left it sitting on the drawing board.

Residents who responded to a consultation welcomed the plans for a student village which they said would bring jobs, money and life to the area.