WORK is underway on Southampton's new £21m arts complex.

Mayor Ivan White 'cut the first sod' at a ceremony at Guildhall Square this morning, beginning a development that has been years in the making.

Cllr White said: "This has been through all political iterations and all parties are very, very proud of the plans and strongly support construction.

"This completes the final part of the jigsaw of the arts square and the cultural quarter."

The city council has teamed up with Grosvenor Developments to deliver the complex by Spring 2016.

McLaren Construction has been appointed to carry out the work, which will provide film, theatre and dance studios, a contemporary art gallery and educational space.

The wider scheme will also create 300 jobs, shops, restaurants and 38 apartments.

Simon Armstrong, project director for Grosvenor, added: "We are delighted to reach this point in the project cycle.

" This is the first time Grosvenor has worked with the city council and McLaren and we are looking forward to a fruitful partnership and delivering this contract on time and on budget."