PLANS for the £450m redevelopment of Southampton's Royal Pier have taken a step forward after plans for a new ferry terminal were approved.

Last night city planning chiefs approved plans for the new Red Funnel terminal on Trafalgar Dock.

It means the current Red Funnel facilities will move from their current home next to the Royal Pier site to free up space for the wider development.

RPW (Southampton) Ltd's planning application for the Royal Pier development are currently being considered by city council planning officers.

As previously reported in the Daily Echo, if they are given the green light the crumbling pier site, devastated by two fires, would be replaced with a waterside district of homes, bars, restaurants and businesses.

As well as 50 shops, 730 homes and a range of offices, bars and restaurants, the site could also contain a large casino, four or five-star hotel and spa, an arts and culture "hub" and car parking.

And the project - which would involve the reclamation of land from the River Test - would also see Mayflower Park expanded and a new 130ft Spitfire statue installed to tower over the waterside.

The £33.5m new terminal complex will feature a main 2,123sq m building with two cafes, as well as a multi-storey car park.

Port operator Associated British Ports (ABP) and Carnival UK had both objected to the plans due to concerns over traffic while some residents had labelled the car park an "ugly monster".

However both ABP and Carnival withdrew their objections before last night's meeting.

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Peter Lay, a director at Hythe Ferry operator White Horse Ferries, said he was concerned about the longer distance between the proposed terminal to the city centre than its current facilities.

He said: "if it does have an impact on ridership it is very challenging for the operation to run commercially, we run on a modest grant from Hampshire County Council and that could threaten the future survival of the service."

Original plans for car parking on the dry dock were replaced with the multi-storey design after objections from Heritage England.

Alan Gordon, speaking on behalf of the residents of nearby Monument Court, ‎described the multi-storey car park as "monstrous" and urged the developer and council leader to approach Historic England chief executive Duncan Wilson to change its view.

Speaking for the proposal, Ann Bartaby, a director at planning experts Terence O'Rourke said the plans would open up waterfront that was not currently accessible to the public and would provide "significant benefits to the economy of Southampton and the Isle of Wight".

RPW director Ernie Battey said: "This is the first step to making ‎Royal Pier happen. If we can't take this first step then it won't happen."

Panel members Nigel Hecks and Graham Wilkinson had concerns over the size of the car park and put forward a motion to defer a decision for a site visit but it was defeated by fellow panel member Hannah Coombs and chairman Mike Denness' casting vote.

They then voted to approve the plans subject to a string of conditions, including an agreement about when piling works would take place.

Speaker afterwards, Red Funnel customer services director Murray Carter said: "We are delighted, this is a major step for Red Funnel in terms of delivering the first part of the Solent Gateways scheme alongside proposals for East Cowes.

"It will allow us to expand our operations and move our high speed, ferry and head offices on one site.

"It will enhance the customer experience and the economies of Southampton and the Isle of Wight will certainly benefit."

Work may now begin on the new terminal later this year, with the whole Royal Pier development potentially being built by 2023.