YESTERDAY, on the 20th anniversary of the opening of Westquay shopping centre, we took a look at the hordes of people that converged on the sparkling new mall - today we take a look at the building of the complex.

The opening was the culmination of more than a decade of twists and turns, setbacks and happy coincidences.

The idea of creating the region’s premier shopping centre dates back to the mid 1980s, arising from the threat of out of town stores and the devastating prospect that John Lewis might quit the city and move its Tyrrell & Green branch to Hedge End or even Fareham.

The knock-on effect of such a major retailer abandoning Southampton could have sounded the death knell for a thriving city.

Plans were regularly drawn up and scrutinised for years.

When the Pirelli cable works site became available it was initially earmarked for industrial use but was soon considered for retail.

Developer Imry arrived on the scene, but its proposals for the Pirelli site hit a snag over how the new centre would be linked to the existing shopping zone at Above Bar.

With concerns that the new mall would become a competitor rather than a support to the current stores Imry struggled to raise the cash required, and so the scheme was split into phases, the first being the building of West Quay Retail Park.

After the city council bought out Pirelli’s long-term lease on its empty factory with money raised through the retail park development, the Daily Echo announced its move from Above Bar to Nursling on the edge of the city.

This turned out to be the saving of the project because the developers bought the Daily Echo site, which provided the link between Above Bar and the Pirelli site.

All the objections expressed by the property and retail world evaporated.

Outline planning permission for Westquay was granted in the summer of 1995 and by September 1997 work was under way to demolish the existing buildings, under the leadership of the new developer, Hammerson.

At the height of construction work, 25,000 tonnes of concrete a month were being laid and 1,200 employees were on site.

A total of 437,000 bricks were used and as many as 13 tower cranes were being operated at one point.

About 15,000 cubic metres of crushed concrete from the demolition site were recycled for use on the development while 120,000 tonnes of evacuated material were removed. Rubble was taken to tips 50 miles away, involving 5,040 lorry loads.