FRESH plans have been drawn up to flatten an empty shopping centre in the heart of Southampton and replace it with hundreds of new businesses and homes.

But the Daily Echo can reveal the proposals to demolish the Bargate Shopping Centre are at an impasse due to a wrangle over the sale of the site.

Civic leaders have expressed their hopes that a deal can be reached to replace the eyesore with a lay out of new streets and shops that they claim will rejuvenate the area.

As previously reported, the 26-year-old complex next to the iconic Bargate monument has been boarded up since June last year, when administrators failed to find a buyer.

Since then, a consortium of American investors has bought the site with a view to selling it on for redevelopment.

A developer, understood to be European asset management giant Catalyst Capital, has since drawn up plans for the site and opened negotiations with the owners about purchasing the site.

The proposals include demolishing the entire centre and creating a new layout based around a street between the Bargate monument and Debenhams.

It would feature dozens of ground floor retail and leisure units on either side of the new street, which would have up to 400 flats built on top of them.

The development would also reveal large sections of the city’s medieval walls.

However, the plans have stalled with a price for the site yet to be agreed.

Council leader Simon Letts has expressed his hope that an agreement can be reached about the new plans.

He said: “The blockage at the moment is that it is in the hands of the American owners and they will only release it at the price they demand for |it.

“We would like to see the owners release the site to the developer who wants to develop on the site as quickly as possible.

“It gives us an opportunity to link Debenhams and the city centre, and to open up the city walls as part of the public realm, because they are hidden away behind quite ugly buildings and they are an asset to the city.”

He added that he hoped to see work start on the site within the next three to five years.

Stewart Dunn, chief executive of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “This would be a huge improvement and much-needed improvement to the area and in particular would be welcomed by businesses in terms of improving the city centre offer around the iconic Bargate.”

Catalyst Capital did not respond when contacted by the Daily Echo to comment.