PLANS for a multi-million pound office building in Southampton have moved a step forward.

Southampton City Council will spend £27m on a 70,000 sq ft office building at the derelict Toys R Us site, as part of a £150m scheme. 

Council leader Christopher Hammond described the plans as "robust".

As reported the money will come from external borrowing.

Financial details of the investment were discussed by city councillor in a behind closed doors meeting on Wednesday evening.

Conservative councillors quizzed council officers over the investment during a brief discussion held before the press and the public were asked to leave the meeting.

Officers said the size of the proposed office building is "about the right size at this moment in time in the market". 

Council officers told civic chiefs the office building will be a "catalyst generating other offices". 

They said there is a need to attract "higher skilled jobs" to the city and stressed that the authority had  "external advice" and the proposed office building is "something which is needed in the city".

The investment was approved, with council leader Christopher Hammond describing the scheme as a "once-in-a-generation opportunity".

But after the meeting  leader of the opposition party Dan Fitzhenry said when asked to vote in favour of the investment Conservative councillors abstained.

He added: " We abstained simply because we don't believe that all the financial models have been explored and we will want to look to deliver those scheme with less risk for the taxpayers. Under the current proposal there's a risk that the taxpayers could be left with the building that does not have enough rental income to cover its cost. We weren't reassured by the commitment of the potential tenants. If the strength of the commitment from the tenants was strong enough we would be minded to support it."

Hitting back Cllr Hammond said: "We have got a robust plan which we generate for every investment that we make and this has been independently verified. We are going to be bold and ambitious for Southampton. We think it deserves the best. This investment will give the city an economic and social value return. It is incredibly short-sighted for them [The Conservatives] not to support us. This is an exciting development that has been approved by full council."

As reported, the office building is part of a £150m project for the site which will also see 275 flats, new shops, restaurants and possibly a gym and more office space.