HIGH-flying proposals to launch a tethered passenger-carrying helium balloon over Southampton city centre could be scrapped in a row with airport bosses.

Councillors seeking an elusive "Wow factor" for the city had backed the plan to anchor the balloon in the city centre's Andrews Park where it would float up into the sky, giving breathtaking views.

Businesses also welcomed the chance to lure thousands more tourists to the city centre.

But the company behind the balloon, dubbed the Southampton Eye, has revealed it has been locked in a dispute with Southampton Airport owners BAA over the height it can fly.

Alastair Gunning, director of Lindstrand Aerial Platforms, said plans to launch it this summer have already been shelved. He said he wanted to fly the balloon to 400ft - more than two-and-a-half times the height of the Civic Centre clocktower - to provide passengers with 25-mile panoramic views but had been told it was too high.

BAA says the balloon would need to float to about half the proposed height to provide a safety zone for aircraft flying as low as 5,000ft over the city.

Mr Gunning said: "BAA are asking for a lower height, which isn't very good. The balloon needs to be high enough to get a good view."

He said negotiations over a compromise height were ongoing but could derail the whole proposal.

He said: "It's now not going to be this year. There are just too many things to get done."

The balloon would be 80ft high and carry up to 30 passengers at a time during daylight hours for fares between £10 and £15.

It could provide the council with an income of about £20,000 from a share of ticket sales and marketing income.

Earlier this month Lindstrand launched a seafront £450,000 Hi-Flyer helium balloon following a six-month legal wrangle over covenants on the land it is sited in the gardens of Torre Abbey at Torbay. It was sabotaged on the first night and required repairs for 47 knife punctures.

Bournemouth and Leeds Castle in Kent already have similar attractions.

In a statement BAA said: "The airport has no objection in principle to the concept of a tethered balloon in Southampton. However, safety is our highest priority and in accordance with regulations laid down by the CAA, the airport objected to the proposal.

"This was due to the proposed height that the balloon would rise to, and the close proximity of it to aeroplanes using Southampton Airport.

"The airport is very happy to work with Lindstrand to identify other possible sites for the tethered balloon that would not compromise flight safety."