SOUTHAMPTON’S plans for a £15m heritage museum have been given a huge boost.

English Heritage has now given its seal of approval to the ambitious proposals which will see the most radical redevelopment in the 78- year history of the Civic Centre.

They include a cruise shipinspired extension, which will house an exhibition centre, a roof extension and a remodelled entrance.

Campaigners fighting the proposal say it would spoil the original design of the Grade II-listed building.

However, endorsement from the body in charge of protecting historic buildings should pave the way for the project to get the go-ahead from the council’s planning chiefs today.

“We have now given detailed advice to Southampton City Council which broadly accepts the case for significant alterations to the exterior and interior of the police and courts block,”

a statement from English Heritage said.

They were also content with the council’s plans to remove the steps at the grand entrance to the old courts.

The council wants to create a pavement-level main entrance to the new museum on Havelock Road.

However, an English Heritage spokesman said there was still some concerns over the view of the modern extension from the Art Gallery forecourt.

The City of Southampton Society (CoSS), which champions the city’s architecture, said removing the steps and adding an extension spoilt the building’s design.

“The proposed extension on the north side completely destroys the balanced outline of the building, is off inappropriate stone finish and not in sympathy by a Grade II building,”

a CoSS spokesman said.

Councillor John Hannides, Cabinet member for leisure, culture and heritage, said the council had worked closely with English Heritage since the very beginning of the project.

“We naturally understand the viewpoints of all the people that contributed to the consultation and it’s fair to say that both in terms of architecture and design it’s very difficult to please everybody,”

Cllr Hannides said.

“Our plans are striking, bold and ambitious. I feel that the proposals represent a positive contribution to a Grade II-listed building and the way that we wish to bring it into public use.”

Last month, the City Council ditched plans to sell two pieces of art from its overflowing collection to help pay for the Sea City Museum.

Southampton’s financial chiefs are hoping to cover the funding shortfall by allowing Hampshire County Council to invest in its art collection.

Sea City Museum is set to open in April 2012 on the centenary of the Titanic’s sinking.