“SIGNIFICANT” concerns have been raised over multi-million pound plans to transform a derelict site in Southampton.

As reported, a new office building, 275 flats, shops and restaurants are to be built at the Toys R Us site in Western Esplanade as the first phase of a £150m scheme.

According to a document released by Southampton City Council (SCC), the second phase of the project will see more homes being built at the site “with their final quantum and mix being determined by market demand and availability of additional immediately neighbouring land”.

Meanwhile, another development which may be an office space or a new hotel will be part of phase three.

The £27m office building which will be part of the first phase of the scheme is to be funded by SCC through external borrowing.

Council leader Christopher Hammond said the authority intends to include more office space in the plans.

But Giles Semper, the executive director of Go!Southampton, the Business Improvement District (BID) for the city centre, raised concerns.

He said the BID "very much welcomes" the office development as part of phase one and said to be also pleased to see the council has intervened to ensure office accommodation is “a key component” of the first phase of the scheme.

But he added: “We do have significant concerns that the focus on this site will be on residential. This would position Southampton as a ‘dormitory’ city, simply providing accommodation for commuters to London. Our fear is that once the initial portion of office space is delivered, the rest of the site will be residential. Our concern is that the amount of office space in phases two and three is vague in the extreme and will be determined by ‘market demand’.”

He said the inclusion of 70,000 sq ft of lettable office space as part of phase one is “a good start”.

But he added that more offices are needed in order to create a Central Business District (CBD).

“If we miss this opportunity for the CBD we will never get it again. There is no ‘Plan B’. It is vital that the planning process drives the development towards what is good for the city not just the developer, and that it provides the launch pad for a new CBD – something that the city has long been promised,”he added.

Cllr Hammond said: “Southampton City Council’s substantial investment in Phase 1 clearly illustrates our strong commitment to the city centre. It’s our intention to include more office space in phases 2 & 3, as there is a proven market for purpose built office accommodation in Southampton.

The Council will use its influence through its land interests and planning to ensure the overall mix is right for this important gateway location. We welcome all feedback on the proposals and have been told that we have the full support of the BID for our plans for the site. We’ll continue working with all stakeholders to ensure that this site makes a transformational impact on the city for generations to come."