CIVIC chiefs are celebrating the transformation of an important route for people walking between Southampton Central Station and the city centre.

The city council has completed the regeneration of Blechynden Gardens, a park on the former site of Emperia Buildings, a which was destroyed during a bombing raid in 1940.

The council decided to a new public space which respected the rich heritage of the area - one of the city's last remaining Second World War sites.

The new-look park includes what remains of Emperia Buildings, plus two set-piece sculptures.

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Cllr Jacqui Rayment, cabinet member for transport and place said: "It’s amazing to see the transformation of this area into an attractive, world-class public space complete with two amazing pieces of artwork that respect the rich history of the area.

"The parks team at the council have done a great job to ensure this area will be enjoyed by residents and visitors for generations to come.

"Our aim is to improve the health, social and economic wellbeing of the people of Southampton. Investing in the public realm is vital to achieving that.”

The park includes the Blechynden Arch, made of corten steel which has been aged to match the colour of neighbouring brickwork.

A nearby car park is partly hidden by a "unique and bespoke" screen designed by council employee Cliff Brown and created by New Forest blacksmith Colin Phillips.

The screen aims to serve as a "ghost" of the walls which once stood on the site.

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Council staff worked from a photograph of the area as it looked in the early 1900s, decades before land reclamation pushed the waterfront far to the south to accommodate the docks and other industry.

A council spokesman said: "A seating area remains over an old vault but the seats have been replaced with durable steel seats and reversed to look over the park rather than the car park.

"The enclosure of the park is completed with railings to inhibit access to and from the car park making both places safer.

"Muddy gravel paths have been replaced with fully accessible, free draining, rubber crumb surfaces. This makes the experience of walking through the park novel and enjoyable."