IT'S the £400m development that could turn a derelict waterfront site in Southampton into one of the country's most exciting leisure destinations.

Plans to overhaul the Royal Pier site have long been discussed but the site has lain derelict for decades.

But that could be about to change after £400m plans to redevelop the site were submitted - and it could also create up to 10,000 jobs for people in Hampshire.

An outline planning application for the waterfront complex of bars, restaurants, homes and a super casino has been filed with civic chiefs and could be approved by the end of the year.

Consultation on the plans for the site was launched earlier this year when developer the Royal Pier Waterfront (RPW) company unveiled images of how it could look within the next decade.

The Royal Pier has a long and rich history, having been opened by Princess Victoria, soon to become queen, in 1833.

Thousands of people from Southampton and farther afield enjoyed amusements and entertainments on the pier for more than a century as it become one of the South's most popular destinations.

But over time its use dwindled until it finally closed in 1979 and the structure was then gutted by two major fires, in 1987 and 1992.

But now the developer and city chiefs hope that it will soon change from an eyesore to the "jewel in the city's crown".

The plans for the site includes a super casino, a 250-bed four or five-star hotel and spa and a gourmet "Epicurean market" offering top of the range produce.

It could also contain 730 flats and apartments, up to 50 shops, restaurants and bars and 47,000sq m of office space.

There would also be a new arts and culture "hub" providing a new venue for a host of different performances and meetings and a 2,000 space car park.

With land reclaimed from the River Test to make the plans a reality, Mayflower Park will also be extended by 8,000sq m and a 98ft high Spitfire monument will take pride of place on the quayside.

The newly-expanded Mayflower Park would become the home for the Southampton Boat Show and have a new boardwalk, interactive water features and games area.

With the current Red Funnel ferry terminal at Town Quay right in the middle of the proposed site, it will be moved further along the waterfront to Trafalgar Dock to make way although the Kuti's Royal Thai Pier restaurant will not be affected.

RPW says it is difficult to say exactly how many jobs could be created, but estimates it could be as many as 9,700 once 3,500 design and construction jobs are factored in.

Charles Forsyth, from RPW, told the Daily Echo: "We are very excited that we have submitted the application.

"We will continue to work with the council to ensure this is a scheme that meets the needs of the city and its residents.

"We want this be a destination that we can all be proud of.

"As custodians of the city the council will be doing a very thorough job in their review of the application."

Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith said: "I welcome this major milestone in the development of the city's waterfront.

"It's been a long time coming and there are still many obstacles to overcome before we finally have a waterfront to be proud of.

"I hope that we will continue to make progress to a fantastic new destination in Southampton and home to a lasting tribute to the Spitfire.

"In addition the new jobs, but particularly the permanent ones after construction, will help more families benefit from a pay packet at the end of the week."

Also welcoming the news was Stewart Dunn, Hampshire Chamber of Commerce's chief executive, who said: "We certainly welcome the news that at long last it looks like a reality that we are going to see movement and progress with Royal Pier, and that the development comes with a number of jobs that are gong to be created as a result which will undoubtedly boost the economy for the area and also give a lift to young people who are seeking careers, particularly those who will be engaged in the construction and engaged as apprentices.

"This is fantastic news in terms of job creation and we have not seen anything like it in terms of the numbers for many years."

  • What happens next?

THE plans may finally have been submitted to transform Royal Pier - but it will still be years before any work can begin to make them a reality.

The outline plans filed this week are only the first stage of the planning process, although city council planning chiefs may reach a decision by the end of the year.

If they are approved then detailed plans for each part of the development will be drawn up - and they could look different to the ones currently being considered.

The first part of the plans that would come to fruition would be transferring the Red Funnel ferry terminal from Town Quay to Trafalgar Dock.

If both that and the other detailed plans are approved, then Royal Pier Waterfront anticipates that building work - including the long and complex job of reclaiming land from the River Test - can then begin in 2018.

And that could mean people in Southampton and visitors alike could soon be strolling along the new waterfront and popping into its bars, restaurants and shops by 2023.