COLLECTING dust under the stairs of the City Art Gallery is a virtual model of Southampton. Costing £120,000 of taxpayers’ money, it was proclaimed as a symbol of pride at its grand opening in May.

The 3D model was created to show residents, visitors and developers what Southampton would look like in the near future as the city undertook its biggest post-Second World War redevelopment.

We were told it would offer a “living, breathing, changing” representation of Southampton and new projects would be added as and when they were revealed.

What the city should be looking like - click to play

How times have changed. The “wow factor” has become more like a “woe factor” and the so-called City Vision Centre is now in danger of becoming a symbol of embarrassment.

In less than six months, five highprofile city centre developments have fallen victim to the economic downturn sweeping the globe.

In among the grey Monopoly-style houses that dominate the model are tiny versions of some of the city’s flagship building projects.

These include a 13-storey hotel that was to jut out into the Ocean Village marina and the city’s premier office development, Mayflower Point, opposite the Civic Centre.

The Daily Echo this week revealed both projects – worth a combined £130m – had stalled and there were doubts over when either would ever get off the ground.

Of course, Southampton is not suffering alone and some argue the city is better placed to survive the credit crunch.

Councillor Royston Smith, the man charged with overseeing Southampton’s mega-build, yesterday insisted his £1.5 billion vision was not in tatters.

“My concern is that the more we talk up how bad it is the more people will believe it,”

the Cabinet member for economic development said. “It is pretty bad, but it is not all doom and gloom.”

Cllr Smith last year said Southampton was entering a “golden age”, with 14 major developments – including 5,000 new residential units – that would change the city “beyond recognition”.

Thirteen months on, does he believe the golden age is gone?

“I don’t think it is gone, Southampton’s golden age is just going to have to be put back a couple of years because the developments are not all going to happen at the same time as they were going to,” Cllr Smith said. “The next two to three years are not going to be transformational for Southampton, instead it is going to be 2012/13 or 2014 – but all of those projects are still going to happen.”

He added: “Southampton is actually doing well in comparison to lots of other places.

The demand for housing is still strong and is still there, but it’s just that nobody can get any money.”

His optimism received a boost today, with firms behind three of the city’s most important projects declaring they were not going to turn their backs on Southampton.

Of most importance, regional development agency SEEDA last night said Centenary Quay Woolston – the city’s biggest development – was on track.

A meeting of Southampton’s council, health, police, business and volunteer bosses earlier this month heard that some major developments were not proceeding or had been “mothballed” until the market picks up.

The Southampton Partnership was warned there might be more mothballing in the future and that land values were down about 20 per cent for brownfield sites and 25 per cent for greenfield sites. Private sector housing schemes had effectively stopped, while affordable housing schemes were still progressing.

With regard to office developments, banks are not funding the schemes unless they are pre-let, which is having an impact on some of the office developments in the pipeline.

The building of new hotels, however, is proceeding and has not been affected yet by the downturn. Developments such as IKEA, Carnival Headquarters’ fourth cruise terminal and Palmer Johnson were going ahead.

While these are beacons of hope, the Southampton Partnership, who commissioned the City Vision Centre, must be wishing they had stuck with their original wow factor idea of firing laser beams out of the clock tower.

What's happening with key developments


Clean-up of the former Vosper Thornycroft site is under way and developer Crest Nicholson said it is on track and work is under way.

However, two months after planning was approved, they have yet to agree infrastructure funding with the council. The £500m development will feature 1,600 new homes and an industrial site that will create at least 1,000 new jobs.


Construction begun this month on a 128-fl at development and a Marine Innovation Centre that will surround a plaza next to Harbour Lights cinema. The project is being developed by Linden Homes and Marine Developments Limited, who hope to have it completed in 2010.


Work on the 13-storey, £50m hotel was this week put on hold due to the global fi nancial crisis.

Developers Ocean Village Resorts Ltd said it remained committed to the hotel and work would continue some time in the future.


Construction of the six-storey apartment block was left half finished and abandoned last month due to financial difficulties.

Developer Inner Circle Homes said they hoped workers would return to the site by the end of the year.


Developer Wilson Bowden earlier this year called off work with just three of the planned five towers built and only two of the ten shops completed. The site has been up for sale for almost five months with no buyers.


The council has given Scottish developer Kilmartin until December 2009 to draw up dramatic plans for the prime waterfront site. Although no details are available yet proposals for the site are likely to include around 1,000 flats.


Plans for an art centre housed in two glass towers collapsed in the summer after developer City Lofts ran out of funding. The site, the former Tyrrell and Green store, is to be demolished next month at a cost of £1.5m while the council attempts to fi nd another developer.


Planning consent was granted to the six-storey office block in May, which will now rise up on the former C&A building on Northern Above Bar. Part of the Arts Quarter, it will feature shops, restaurants and cafe.


Work on the £80m project, which will feature an eight-storey offi ce block, 150-bed hotel and a 14-storey apartment tower, was supposed to begin in July. It has since stalled as developers Terrace Hill continue to negotiate infrastructure funding with the city council.


A planning application was submitted last month to build a ten-storey tower containing 115 flats. The application also includes a four-storey office block and an extension to The Mayflower theatre.


Developer Hammersons are due to submit a planning application next month for the third phase of building at WestQuay. The latest development will feature a hotel, flats, cinema and a new city plaza.


The £110m development will feature the city’s tallest tower - a 4 star Radisson hotel.

Developers Imperial said revised plans had been submitted to change the hotels’ footprint, but there were no anticipated problems and work would begin once permission was granted.