WORK on a multimillion-pound "nature-based campus" in Romsey, which could create 150 jobs, may start in September.

An application was submitted to Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) to knock down the old aquatic centre, Romsey World of Water in Greatbridge Road.

In its place would feature a cafe, visitors’ centre and a place to view birds on the Fishlake Meadows Nature Reserve - next to the development.

If approved, the £10m scheme, submitted by Azure One Limited, would offer retail space, flexible community space, and offices.

The site was occupied by Southern Aquatics & Pets until June 30 2020 after Romsey World of Water went bust in January last year.

Project lead at ep projects, Gary Wilburn, said work on the site could begin in September if TVBC give the plans the nod.

He said: "All parties continue to pursue the original vision of delivering an equal opportunity access to Fishlake Meadows and the Lower Test Valley for current and future generations.

"We hope to secure permission very soon and start work on site in September this year."

The development could also boast 173 car parking spaces - 51 fewer than originally proposed, according to a document submitted to TVBC.

This should include 87 parking spaces and eight accessible spaces.

This comes after 148 people had their say on the proposals after attending two sessions at the Town Hall, Market Place, on Friday, August 21 and Saturday, August 22 last year.

Jane Gooden, who lives in Braishfield, said: "I fundamentally want this to be a nature reserve, so we can go for a walk and enjoy seeing the birds [in Fishlake Meadows], rather than potentially having children on swings in the vegetable growing area, because everywhere seems to have play areas now.

"The key thing is this will be another way to access the nature reserve and it is not a place where children will be racing up and down the boardwalk."

A Romsey woman said: "I came here to have a closer look at the plans, because I live nearby and I have walked around there a lot, particularly during lockdown, so I want to make sure the area doesn't become overdeveloped.

"If the buildings are wooden like they are in the photos then I'm sure it will look lovely and it would be a really positive investment for the town."

Another resident from Totton said: "I have been a member of the Hampshire Wildlife Trust for 30 years and I learnt about this through an email, which is what prompted me to come here.

"I think it is a lovely idea and I am a keen bird watcher, so this is right up my street."

As reported, Mr Wilburn, said he was delighted to welcome the attendees to the public consultation, adding the “nature-based campus” could generate 150 jobs, “provides a £10m green infrastructure investment” and would give better access to the nature reserve.

The 57-year-old said Azure One Limited has been working with Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) to “ensure the development improves the area for wildlife and offers opportunities for those working or visiting to enjoy and connect with nature”.

Chief Executive of HIWWT, Debbie Tann, told the Advertiser: “This disused site sits next to our nature reserve, Fishlake Meadows – a wonderful wildlife haven on the edge of Romsey.

“There is a real opportunity to bring nature to the fore here and we are happy to be working with the team to help ensure that the development is sensitive to the special wildlife of our nature reserve, and delivers genuine benefits for both wildlife and local people.”