IT WAS supposed to be the new gateway to Southampton, as well as a home for hundreds of students.

But since it has gone up the City Gateway has been labelled an “eyesore”, with residents living near the building referring to it as the “fag butt”.

And now, the Daily Echo can reveal that after work on the building wasn't completed on time students can't even move in - for a year.

Community leaders have labelled the situation, which will see the 15-storey tower remain empty until next September, an “embarrassment”.

It is the second housing headache a Hampshire university has suffered in recent weeks, after some Winchester University students were put up in hotels up to 40 miles away due to an accommodation crisis.

As previously reported by the Daily Echo, French development giant Bouygues began work on the £23.5million City Gateway tower in Swaythling last February.

Sitting at the northern entrance to Southampton at the junctions of Thomas Lewis Way and Stoneham Way, the 15-storey tower has 350 rooms which were due to be occupied by University of Southampton students.

The design of the building - which has been labelled the “fag butt” by some residents - had proven controversial, while there was concern from local businesses that it would hit their trade.

It had been due to welcome its first students at the beginning of the current academic year, and a Morrisons Local supermarket, GP surgery and Lloyds pharmacy have all opened on the ground floor in recent weeks.

But now it has been revealed that the huge tower will remain empty until next September after Bouygues' contractors missed the handover deadline of August 1.

A spokesman for the firm said: “There were several factors which impacted on the overall completion of the project , including amongst others, delays to programme resulting from supply chain non-performance.

“Unfortunately, the University of Southampton has exercised its entitlement, based on the scheduled completion date, not to take this building from August 2014.

“There are no outstanding issues, the building is fully complete, having achieved practical completion on August 14th including all Health, Safety and Fire assessment checks and has now been handed over to our investor.”

A spokesman for the university said: “Unfortunately the completion of the new City Gateway hall of residence by Bouygues was unavoidably delayed and not ready in sufficient time for the university to allocate students to this hall for occupation in time for the start of the 2014-15 academic year.

“We are all extremely disappointed that we were not able to use City Gateway at the start of this academic year but we are confident that delaying the opening of the hall is the right decision for our students and the university will not take occupation of the building now until August 2015.”

The spokesman said the University had not allocated students to City Gateway due to fears it would not be ready in time, and that planned maintenance works to other halls of residence had been delayed to accommodate the 350 students who should have been housed in City Gateway.

There had been rumours around Swaythling that issue was due to the building failing a fire safety regulation test due to a lack of fire exits, but they proved wide of the mark.

Swaythling city councillor Bob Painton said: “The building was already a blot on the landscape and an eyesore. People call it the 'fag butt'.

“Winchester struggling to find places for its students, and yet this is going to remain closed until next year.

“It's a total embarrassment, it's supposed to be the gateway to Southampton.

“I would have expected Bouygues to get everything done in time, the ground floor units are open and for it now to sit there underused for a year is ridiculous.”

Fellow ward councillor Sharon Mintoff added: “Whilst there's one school of thought that as hundreds and hundreds of students will be there and parking will become a nightmare, on the other side of the coin is the fact that it's purpose-built student accommodation and it would free up family homes that are currently student homes.

“I'm extremely surprised by this because, while the size of the Gateway is huge for Swaythling it's minuscule in comparison with the Mayflower Halls in the city centre, and they had a fire there during construction yet they were ready.”