A FINAL chance for Southampton's much awaited wow' factor could have slipped away because the proposals put forward are just not showy enough.

Plans for a replica Spitfire or mural to be painted on a university building have both been thrown out because neither would have raised the profile of the city.

The rejections are the latest in a series of potential wow' factors to be rejected by civic leaders, following the dismissal of a laser scheme that would have projected laser beams out from the Civic Centre's clock tower.

But the Liberal Democrat light-scheme was effectively ditched by the Conservatives when they took control of Southampton City Council after protests from neighbouring councils and environmentalists.

Now the Spitfire replica and murals depicting Southampton's long history have also been discarded because those in charge of handing over the funding say they do not make a sufficient statement about the city.

The decision, though, also means the cash could be lost for good as it has to be spent by March 31, 2008 and there are no other ideas currently being considered.

The decision not to push ahead with either the murals or the Spitfire came from the Southampton Partnership, who were charged with investigating proposals for the South East England Development Agency who have committed the £250,000 cash.

Southampton City Council's ruling Tories now say they will look for alternative funding for the life-size bronze replica of the iconic Spitfire, which would have stood on the roundabout near to the De Vere Grand Harbour hotel.

The future of Southampton Solent University's proposal to celebrate some of the city's heritage, personalities and achievements on the walls of the Sir James Matthew Building, next to Guildhall Square, is uncertain.

Councillor John Hannides, Cabinet member for leisure and culture, said he was "surprised" the Spitfire did not meet the criteria set down by SEEDA, bearing in mind the significance of the Spitfire for Southampton and the impact it would have made at a key city gateway.

"I'm extremely disappointed. This was a project that got support right across the city," he said.

Ros Cassy, chairman of the Southampton Partnership, said while the projects had "considerable merit" there were question marks over whether they made a sufficient statement to raise the city's image. There were also concerns whether they could be delivered in time.

Trevor Thorne, director of marketing at Southampton Solent University, said while the Wall of Fame may not now go ahead he hoped fresh ideas for the Sir James Matthew Building could be drawn up as part of arts quarter and Guildhall Square redevelopment.

"We don't want to look the poor relation when all the new buildings go up," he said.