A GIANT, gleaming Spitfire statue in Southampton could move another step closer to reality today.

Civic chiefs will meet to discuss formally handing over land in Mayflower Park for the 130ft monument that could welcome visitors to the city.

If that happens the campaign to raise £4m for the tribute will be launched later this year and the monument could be standing in three years’ time.

As previously reported in the Daily Echo planning permission for the new location of the statue was granted by the city council last year.

Now the council’s cabinet will meet to decide whether to formally dispose of the land, although the council will need to buy some part of the proposed site from the Crown Estate for a nominal fee of £150.

The statue, designed as a lasting tribute to the iconic aircraft that was built in and around the city and helped to win the Battle of Britain, is set to be one of the first parts of the proposed £450m Royal Pier development.

Construction work may start next year on the plans to turn the crumbling waterside side into a leisure and flat complex if planning permission is granted.

Public consultation on the latest plans, which will include a super-casino, is due to start later this summer.

A new charity, the National Spitfire Charity, has been formed to drive the project forward, and former Rolls Royce chief executive Sir Ralph Robins has been named as its president.

Former VT Group chief executive Paul Lester will be vice-president, while ht charity also features Tony Edwards, the former president of the Royal Aeronautical Society, Solent Sky museum founder Alan Jones and city councillor John Hannides.

And the charity has won partners in professional services giant KPMG, South Coast legal firm Blake Morgan, marketing company Mindworks and project managers Evolution5 who will all be offering their services for free.

Cllr Hannides, pictured below, said the formal hand-over of land was one of the steps that needed to be taken before a formal fundraising campaign launch takes place.

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He said: “There are still some key milestones we need to reach but I am confident we are well-placed to launch the fundraising campaign later this year which will hopefully take us to our ultimate goal and the dream of many people so the spirit of the Spitfire becomes an international landmark.

“I would like to acknowledge the positive help and support of the city council, council leader Simon Letts and deputy leader Stephen Barnes-Andrews.

“I think it’s fit and proper that the city is taking a key partnership role in ensuring that there is a suitable site for what promises to be one of Southampton’s most important landmarks.”