A MASSIVE scheme to turn Northern Above Bar in Southampton into the city's showpiece "cultural quarter" is to move a further step forward on Monday.

Members of the City Council's Cabinet are expected to endorse the scheme by approving city council funding of about £2.8m to help pay for the project.

The master plan - costing an estimated £8m - will see two huge glass towers being built at the Guildhall with a multi-purpose arts complex underneath.

Funding for the project, which is expected to be completed by 2006, would come from a £4m National Lottery grant to Southampton City Council, a £750,000 Arts Lottery offer to Art Asia and £2.8m of city council funds.

An additional £500,000 will have to be found over the next three years to pay for the project.

The huge new towers will be built on the former Tyrrel Green site.

They will contain 200 high-quality apartments overlooking Guildhall Square and East Park if the scheme is given the final green light by city planning bosses.

The towers will form part of the city's emerging "cultural quarter" - a scheme which will, along with West Quay Phase Three, transform the skyline of the city over the next decade.

Below the towers, space will be made to house city arts groups. The building will house a performing arts centre, the Art Asia project and facilities for the city's media project, City Eye.

There will also be space for an up-graded replacement Gantry Arts Centre as well as new facilities for the John Hansard Gallery which will be part funded by an Arts Council grant and money from the city council.

Council cash to pay for the city's contribution to the scheme will come from the sell-off of the Tyrrel Green site - estimated at about £2.8m.

The plans will be put forward to full council once the Cabinet has endorsed the project.