IT’S a done deal!

Billed as the biggest economic project ever seen in Hampshire, Southampton and Portsmouth’s joint bid for a City Deal worth at least £400m will be signed and sealed in just three days time, the Daily Echo can reveal.

It will be welcome news for the region which has been dealt a hammer blow this week with news of more than 1,300 jobs being axed in Portsmouth, Hythe and Whiteley – as well as 500 jobs lost at Ford in Southampton in July.

Hard cash will be unlocked for schemes in Southampton that could herald an economic rebirth with thousands of new jobs, apprenticeships, homes and 100,000 sq m of employment space to be built on.

It’s a deal set to transform the skyline of the city, with a pot of cash giving landmark projects the financial backing they need to finally become a reality.

News of the game-changing bid being given the green light comes just months after council and business chiefs made an impassioned plea to ministers in the House of Commons, urging them to plough the cash into the region.

Under the City Deal scheme, spending powers are transferred from Whitehall to town halls where they can be channelled directly into kick-starting the struggling economy on a local level. As part of the only joint application to be submitted in the country, Southampton and Portsmouth councils beat off 25 cities and will formally sign the deal in Whitehall on Tuesday.

The fine details of how the money will be carved up are not yet clear, but at the stroke of a pen, destination projects such as Watermark WestQuay, which promises a cinema, restaurants, shops, residential tower block and a hotel, will now be financed in a bid to reinvigorate a derelict patch of Southampton city centre.

The project is expected to create 700 jobs.

Plans to transform the city’s Royal Pier site could also win financing as the city council strives to turn it into one of the country’s top seafront locations.

Artist’s impressions of how the derelict site could look if a £330m redevelopment goes ahead have already gone on display.

A further £1m will be used to bankroll training schemes in a bid to get 1,000 long-term jobless back into work.

In Portsmouth, money will be ploughed into Horsea Island and Tipner Firing Range, which could be taken from the Ministry of Defence and used to create 3,900 jobs in the maritime sector and build 2,000 homes.

This comes after a bleak week on the jobs front, with BAE Systems ending five centuries of shipbuilding at its Portsmouth yard which employs nearly a 1,000, 400 of whom are from Southampton.

A second blow came with the announcement that chemical manufacturing firm Polimeri Europa UK was shedding about 300 workers from its Hythe plant.

And only last night insurance giant Zurich revealed it is to axe 94 jobs at its Whiteley centre.

Southampton council leader Simon Letts said the City Deal would now put the city in control of job-creating schemes.

He said: “We are one of the first cities to get it and we are delighted to get it.”

But the clinching of the City Deal has been welcomed by city leaders as a glimmer of hope amid bleak economic fortunes for the city.

Sally Lynskey, CEO of Business South, said she welcomed the news. She said: “City Deal promises to unlock opportunities in our region, and the funding for skills and employability that we understand is included in the package has taken on an even greater significance following the announcement by BAE Systems.”

Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead said: “This is really good news for Southampton. I’m very excited by the emphasis on skills and jobs.

“One of our main problems is to ensure new industries can come up to replace ones that have lost jobs and this makes us very well equipped to deal with that.

“There are 22 cranes on the city’s skyline and Southampton is already taking off. This will make it the regional centre it should be.”

Southampton Itchen MP John Denham added: “We desperately need this City Deal and I am very pleased to welcome this help.”

But he warned that it will not compensate for the recent job losses, adding: “Let's not forget the challenge is to replace a major source of skilled workers and manufacturing on the south coast.”