THE director of Southampton's new multimillion pound venue says problems with the "not fit for purpose" building have been "outrageous and soul-destroying".

Sam Hodges, the director of NST City said it has been "very difficult" to run the theatre since it opened.

Now housed in Guildhall Square's Studio 144, the cultural quarter's £32million "jewel in the crown" opened with a spectacular fireworks display in February this year.

But by May the lifts were already out of order - meaning disabled people were unable to access the theatres or bar.

Shortly afterwards restaurant manager Spencer Bowman abandoned the first floor eatery, Tyrrells.

Now Mr Hodges has promised the lifts will be working by July 23.

But he has slammed the building and said it is "not fit for purpose."

Speaking to the Echo he said: "With a building this expensive the lift thing is outrageous and soul-destroying.

"As you can imagine, it’s been very difficult to be given a building that was not fit for purpose and managing a carefully-curated programme which promotes diversity, accessibility and stories of the city of Southampton, whilst dealing with such operational challenges.

"But we’ve managed to ensure that it has remained accessible throughout this tricky period."

He added: "We’ve been promised the front of house lifts, both in action, week commencing July 23.

"In the meantime we’ve had a stair climber provided by Southampton City Council that can provide access to people in wheelchairs onto all our different floors, ensuring that we are fully accessible. Our staff have been fully trained in its usage.

"We also felt that it was key to have a box office presence on the ground floor and so have set up a station which has been operating from the welcome desk so tickets can be purchased on the ground floor."

He added that delays to the building's opening prevented management from being able to have a "'soft launch" where everything would be tried and tested before the public were fully invited in.

As reported the Studio 144 project was started almost 20 years ago.

Ian Loynes, CEO for Spectrum, a disability advocate charity, praised NST for getting the lifts sorted but added: "Sometimes we can help if people come to us with problems like this. We can be very creative at resolving issues." Mr Hodges said NST had not been in touch with Spectrum specifically but said executive director Caroline Routh "had in fact consulted with our regular disabled customers with regards to the best way to deal with the lift issues."

A spokesperson for Southampton City Council said: "We are working with Galliford Try and our own lift maintenance company to resolve the situation. We are aware that there remain some outstanding works for the building and that these create some challenges for NST.

"They were heavily involved in the handover process and when offered the opportunity to occupy the building in October, made the decision to do so.

"Southampton City Council will continue to work with NST on resolving any outstanding issues, and will support the tenants of Studio 144 to ensure Southampton’s cultural offer is world-class and benefits local residents.”

The internal fit-out of the building was done by Galliford Try on behalf of their client Southampton City Council.

A Galliford Try spokesperson declined to comment.