EIGHT years ago the bulldozers moved in to clear the way for a luxury development that would rejuvenate a prime riverside plot in Southampton.

But instead of towers of high-end homes, the former Meridian studio site has been left as derelict wasteland, branded an eyesore at one of the gateways to the city.

Now, at last, after two failed planning bids, spades have finally gone into the ground at the site in Northam – signalling the start of a much-anticipated development.

Yesterday marked a milestone moment as the official groundbreaking event was staged to start work on the £40m project which will see 350 new homes built.

It is being led by developers Inland Homes who hope to complete the first phase of the build with 54 homes ready by next summer.

Councillor Jacqui Rayment, cabinet member for environment and transport, said that people in the area had given up hope of anything happening with the Meridian site.

She said: “I think people had a feeling that it wouldn’t materialise but now they are able to see that the first shovel has been put into the ground.

“People in the city seem to be delighted that this is happening.”

The development will be a mixture of help-to-buy and privately owned flats on the banks of the River Itchen.

Developers also hope to “create a community” by including shops and parks in the scheme to regenerate the area into a ‘family friendly’ environment.

Mark Gilpin, planning director at Inland, said he had spent time looking at how the development can benefit the local community.

Mark said: “At the moment, the public can only get to the waterside is through a small alleyway through the industrial estate.

"It’s not a very nice or safe way to access a really nice area of the city. We have made sure that there is a park area surrounding the waterfront so that people can access it easily.”

Building work will also create new jobs for people in the city.

Development Director Brian Langfield, said: “We aim to have a range of apprentices and fully trained builders from Southampton working with us.

“I imagine that we will have at least 50 people from the area who work for us.”

Daily Echo:

The history 

The site was well-known for being the base of television broadcasters,with ITV contractors Southern, TVS and Meridian being on the site for decades.

Broadcasting on the site ended in 2008 after Meridian’s owners, Grandana and Carlton, were merged for £4.5billion leading to a controversial decision to leave Southampton and close the site with the loss of 175 jobs.

The studios were demolished in 2008 and Surrey-based firm Oakdene Homes bought the seven-acre site in Summers Street for £8.5million.

But its plans to build a £100million complex containing 500 apartments, commercial space and a 27-storey tower were scrapped when Oakdene went into administration in 2009.

The Royal Bank of Scotland’s commercial property wing West Register, then took over the site after Oakdene’s collapse, but their plans were also shelved before Inland Homes bought the site.