WORK has started on a £21m project to create 211 student flats in the heart of Southampton.

Developer Vita Ventures has begun work to convert Richmond House into a luxury development containing apartments and communal leisure and study facilities.

As previously reported, Southampton City Council planners granted planning permission for the scheme earlier this year.

The 6,048 sq m building in Terminus Terrace, which dates back to the early 1970s, has most recently been used for offices.

Now Vita Ventures, which runs other luxury student flats developments in Liverpool, Manchester and Bristol, has commissioned Carillion to begin work on the site, which will be renamed Vita Student at Richmond House.

When it is completed ahead of the next intake of students in September 2014, it will house 211 luxury studio apartments, which will have fitted kitchens, en-suite bathrooms and foldable double beds with integrated sofas.

They will also have free high-speed 100MB broadband, Wi-Fi and a flat-screen television, while there will also be communal leisure and study facilities.

The flats will be available for investors to buy from tomorrow with a starting price of £67,800 and an assured seven per cent rental yield for the first five years.

Vita Ventures chief executive Trevor Moore said: “Southampton was a prime target for us because the city’s excellent reputation means it is becoming increasingly popular with students from the UK and abroad.

“The UK’s academic strength means that overseas students are flocking to our shores, attracted by the quality of the education and our varied social culture, and this trend is going to continue as government policy is to encourage the predicted rise in international students. Subsequently it means there is a huge shortage of suitable accommodation in all our major cities which we are trying to help rectify.”