THE people of a small former coal-mining town in north Derbyshire loved it, while many of our south coast neighbours in Poole couldn't wait to kill it off.

Now it is up to Southampton to decide if it wants to be known as the home of "The Solar Pyramid - The World's Tallest Timepiece".

As far as city slogans go it certainly isn't the catchiest, but developers behind the multi-million- pound 150ft structure say it would be one of the most iconic landmarks in Britain.

If previous estimates are anything to go by, the pyramid - which would be almost as tall as the Civic Centre clock tower - could attract up to 400,000 visitors and inject £20m a year into the local economy.

The structure would consist of three giant blades leaning towards an apex 148ft (45m) above ground level. The blades will create the illusion of a pyramid structure, but won't actually meet, and cast a shadow across a 213ft (65m) piazza.

The piazza's complex paving pattern will incorporate an equation of time calculation - a wriggling line around the base of the pyramid that acts as a calendar as well as the clock.

The £3.5m construction bill would be paid for by a mix of private sponsorship, public fundraising and development grants - but not by the local taxpayers, according to the developers.

The brainchild of architect Richard Swain and astronomer Robin Catchpole, the project has the backing of the Greenwich Observatory.

Mr Swain this week revealed he was due to approach the city council with his ambitious idea and begin scouring Southampton for a development site near either the motorway or waterfront.

"We did hear Southampton was looking for a landmark and as far as we are concerned Southampton is the premier city on the south coast and the gateway to Britain,"

Mr Swain said.

"What is the principal point of arrival in the UK? It's not London or Liverpool - it's Southampton. It is one of the prime sites in the UK, it's got a fantastic waterfront, a large motorway network and it's vibrant.

"I will scour the whole of the city to see what spots it can be seen from and how the people will experience it. This scheme is around, but the opportunity is not going to be there forever, so we are throwing down the gauntlet to Southampton."

What Mr Swain might not realise is that Southampton has been promised "truly iconic landmarks" before.

The Solar Pyramid compared to other landmarks In the past 12 months the city has seen plans to fire lasers from the Civic Centre clock tower fizzle out and a bid to build a bronze replica Spitfire snubbed by the city's strategic development group.

The most recent proposals include building a glass heritage centre on the west wing of the Civic Centre and an enormous monument to the Spitfire.

Attempts to build Mr Swain's green steel giant have failed twice before and there is no doubt the stigma attached to the project is going to be hard to shake off.

However, it is worth noting that the Solar Pyramid failed in two very different towns and for completely different reasons.

For almost seven years Mr Swain campaigned to build it near Staveley, alongside the M1 and about eight miles south of Sheffield.

Backed by the local authorities, residents and even celebrities such as England cricket captain Michael Vaughan, the Solar Pyramid was hailed as the saviour of a town badly in need of regeneration.

In 2006, more than 80 MPs backed a motion put forward by North East Derbyshire MP Natascha Engel to see the work of art created in Derbyshire.

A buy-a-brick public fundraising drive was launched and the local borough council had even approved a planning application.

Then, just months before construction was due to begin in spring of 2008, Staveley was left shocked by the announcement that sunny Poole had stolen its promised tourist attraction.

The reason given by the developers was a lack of support from regional development agencies and red tape.

The news was greeted with shock of a very different kind by people living at Baiter Park, a popular recreational park near Poole Quay.

After initially being kept under wraps by Poole Borough Council, local residents were outraged when plans to build the massive sculpture on their waterfront were revealed.

The council's Cabinet agreed to spend £40,000 of taxpayers' money on a feasibility study to consider sites, and local tourism chiefs gave it enthusiastic support.

However a groundswell of grass roots opposition - which led to heated public meetings and calls for the leader of the council to resign - saw the idea scrapped just two months after it was proposed.

Mr Swain told the Daily Echo that lessons had been learned from the Poole debacle, where he believes too much focus went on developing the business plan before public support had been sought.

"If you are making a proposal you need to tell the people what it's about and get them behind it.

We would engage with the public in Southampton to decide where it could go. As soon as people understand it we will have very little dissent," he said.

"If Southampton are actively looking for something and there is public support then the process could happen very quickly. We already have a full construction programme, selected materials and detailed costing. From start to finish it could easily be up and benefiting the people of Southampton within 18 months."

Whether Southampton wants to help Mr Swain build his giant sundial remains to be seen, but convincing them that this is not yet another false promise could be his greatest challenge yet.