SOUTHAMPTON is to get a scale model city as its wow' factor, the Daily Echo can reveal.

But the plan to spend £120,000 of tax cash on the model, to be housed at the city Art Gallery, has left council bosses fuming.

The money had been set aside to provide a wow' factor for the city.

The first proposal, to shoot laser beams from the clock tower at the Civic Centre was ditched by the city council.

But councillors were backing plans to build a replica of a Spitfire with the £230,000 offered through a Government regeneration grant.

Now the body looking after the cash has left the city fathers reeling with news they will not allow the Spitfire plan to go ahead, but want a scale model of the whole of Southampton instead.

What's more, it will actually be built in Portsmouth.

The model will be tucked away behind the stairs on the ground floor of the Art gallery.

But even that home will be temporary.

The decision was met with shock by Southampton City Council's Cabinet member for leisure and culture John Hannides, who is still trying to find private funding for the Spitfire.

The Conservative councillor said: "New welcome street signs would not in any way be in the same league as a replica Spitfire, which would have been a striking symbol for the city.

"I was told the Spitfire did not have the impact the city was looking for, so I am surprised to hear the welcome street signs and a city model are intended to be alternative projects.

"I have no doubt the Spitfire could have been done on time and I was surprised it was rejected."

The model will be cut from hard-pressed foam and based on a digital map of Southampton.

In an ironic twist, the 5m x 3m model of the city centre will be made in south coast rival Portsmouth and critics question what attractions the new £25,000 road signs will welcome visitors to.

Almost £120,000 of taxpayers' money will fund the 1:1000 scale model and accompanying exhibition - named the City Vision Centre - which will be temporarily displayed in the City Art Gallery.

The controversial decision was made by the Southampton Partnership, an unelected group of business and community leaders, who were charged with spending the cash allocated by the South East England Development Agency.

The £60,000 3D model will incorporate most major developments proposed for the city and the accompanying £58,000 exhibition will detail each project. Proponents hope the model will be an "engaging attraction" for residents, visitors and developers.

It was inspired by a similar model of London and will be the first of its kind in a regional UK city, although Partnership chairman Ros Cassy admitted it wouldn't give Southampton the "wow factor".

"We're aware that these are not major statements. We're not trying to give the city its wow factor - they're building blocks to improve the city's image over the long-term," she said.

"We have to make best use of the money in the set time frame and we believe these two projects are a sensible use of the money for the city."

The Solent Centre for Design and Architecture - a not-for-profit advocate on regional design issues - approached the Partnership for funding of the model project six weeks ago.

Centre chief executive Paul Grover said: "It might seem a lot of money, but in terms of what it will give the city it's incredible value.

"This is an opportunity to be visionary, because it's an inspiring blueprint for the city's future that everyone can be involved in."

As there is no school of architecture at either of Southampton's universities, the model will be created at the University of Portsmouth.

Gallery curator Tim Craven said the proposed temporary location of the model, under the stairs on the ground floor, conflicted with a Titanic exhibition scheduled for next spring.

"The decision is up to the council, whatever they want to do with the space is up to them, but at the moment it's conflicting with our plans," he added.