IT CAN be seen for miles around but has been left empty for years.

This tower block sits on one of the gateways into Southampton, passed by tens of thousands of motorists every day. Yet no-one has lived in it for more than 12 years.

Residents living nearby describe it as a “monstrosity” and councillors have urged the owners to tear it down urgently.

The 1960s tower, which has been covered in scaffolding for at least three years, is in Wessex Lane on the site of the historic South Stoneham House, an 18th century grade II listed mansion which has also been left abandoned.

Although the grounds of the estate, which were designed by English landscape gardener Capability Brown, appear to be kept in check, the house itself has not been used for years.

Questions are now being asked of the University of Southampton, which owns the property, about what it intends to do with the tower block and the Georgian house.

In 2004 the university announced it planned to knock down the 17-storey tower and undertake a multi-million-pound restoration scheme on the house, one of the university’s oldest buildings.

But his never happened, nor was the university able to sell the site after putting it up for sale last year.

Now residents are left with a tower block dwarfing the skyline with no purpose and no way to enjoy the historic South Stoneham House.

Sharon Mintoff, Labour councillor for Swaythling ward, said: “The problem with the tower block is that it is not safe for students to live there. The cost of bringing it down is also very high.

“It needs to be torn down and redeveloped and South Stoneham House, I think, does need work doing to it.”

David Hibberd, a company director whose home looks out on to the block, said: “We have been here for three years and I took one look at it and thought I don’t like the look of that.

"The tower is a monstrosity, I would rather see it go.

"It is a travesty to have a beautiful building like the South Stoneham House being shuttered up.”

A University of Southampton spokesman said: “South Stoneham House and the nearby tower block in Wessex Lane have been vacant for some years after it was deemed unfit for student use.

“We have been exploring various options for the properties including putting them up for sale last year, which did not result in a saleWe are continuing to investigate opportunities for the buildings to ensure they remain in keeping with the local area.

“We would like to bring the house back into use and replace the tower in a way that will integrate any new development much better and create a more coherent scheme which has added benefits all the students in that location.

"Any development associated with a grade II listed building does pose significant challenges, but we would like to reassure residents and students in that area that we are committed to the development of South Stoneham House and tower block and will continue to work with our partners to explore viable options.”

The Wessex Lane building is not the only university tower block in the area that has courted controversy. The University of Southampton’s 15-storey City Gateway building was described as an eyesore with residents nearby calling it the “fag butt”.

A History of South Stoneham House:

  • South Stoneham House built by Thomas Dummer of London and the grounds, which originally consisted of 300 acres, cost £3,400.
  • The house was completed in 1708.
  • It passed through many different owners during its history, eventually being sold to Sir Samuel Montagu, head of a family of London bankers who was created Lord Swaythling in 1907.
  • It was sold on his death to Southampton University in 1921.
  • All servants quarters and stables were demolished in 1961.