NEW York has the Statue of Liberty, Portsmouth has the Spinnaker Tower – now Southampton will at last have its own iconic waterfront landmark.
The Daily Echo can today reveal that an enormous tribute to the Spitfire will rise up at Town Quay.
Swooping in the sky, the distinctive shape that made the Second World War aircraft instantly recognisable will be visible from vantage points throughout the city and across Southampton Water at Hythe.
Towering 180ft over the waterfront skyline with a wingspan of 110ft – three times the size of the legendary fighter plane – the stainless steel structure is set to become one of Britain’s most famous landmarks.
Associated British Ports (ABP), which owns Town Quay, has backed the ambitious £1.5m plans drawn up by the Spitfire Tribute Foundation.
Port director Doug Morrison yesterday told the Daily Echo it was the perfect location.
“It would be the iconic building that Southampton needs and we need to recognise what RJ Mitchell did and the role the Spitfire played in the Second World War,” he said.
Conservative councillor John Hannides, the Spitfire Tribute Foundation chairman, approached ABP with the proposal after scouring the city for a suitable location.
The Cabinet member for leisure, culture and heritage said Town Quay would allow residents and tourists to see the Spitfire “in all its glory”.
“This is a momentous decision taken by ABP and I would like to particularly extend my thanks to Doug Morrison for championing this proposal,” Cllr Hannides said.
Campaigner and Solent Sky Museum curator Alan Jones said: “This is going to go all over the world. Whenever you pick up a brochure on Southampton this aeroplane is going to be on the front of it.”
It is the latest boost to the Daily Echo’s campaign for a tribute to the Spitfire and the men and women who built and flew it, after Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave his public backing in the summer.
Designed by renowned British sculptor Kenneth Potts, the wire-mesh styled Spitfire will be held aloft by three pylons. Standing 25ft taller than the Civic Centre clock tower, lights projected at night on to the sculpture will illuminate the Spitfire in its numerous battle liveries.
The artist said: “Two or three sites were proposed.
I looked all over the city, but my conclusion was the Town Quay was the most emotionally suitable spot.
It needs to be in the town and people need to be able to approach it.
“This will be Southampton’s equivalent of New York’s Statue of Liberty and it could be a catalyst to develop the waterfront.”
A second phase of the project could also see the construction of a pavilion that would tell the story of RJ Mitchell and the Spitfire.
A full feasibility will now be carried out, including the testing of a scale model in a wind tunnel and detailed research into the construction.
The foundation has so far raised £30,000 from sponsors and the city council has committed £70,000.
An international fundraising drive will be launched to raise the remaining estimated £1.5m so Southampton taxpayers’ will not be charged.