AFTER years of campaigning, Southampton is to get a world class multi-million-pound heritage centre, the Daily Echo can reveal.

The exciting new project would see the city's Hall of Aviation close and its priceless attractions moved under one roof along with exhibits which tell Southampton's history from its earliest Roman beginnings to the great ocean liners of the 19th and 20th century including the ill-fated Titanic.

The attraction is planned to be completed within the next five years and will be located on the city's waterfront.

It will include a display which would tell the story of Southampton's docks and include working trams and steam engines.

In a later phase of the scheme the trams themselves are to provide a link to other attractions in the city such as the historic Bargate and Tudor House Museum.

Pressure to provide a world-class heritage centre was initiated by the Daily Echo nearly 18 months ago.

International leisure experts are to be asked by city leisure bosses to produce a feasibility study into the project. Then the heritage centre - provisionally dubbed The Story of Southampton - will be put out to tender to companies who have built world-class museums across the UK.

Possible sites for the centre include the Lower High Street, the redundant Vosper Thornycroft site, Mayflower Park or the city's docks.

When completed in 2009 the centre is expected to attract thousands of visitors every year.

Cabinet member for leisure, culture and tourism Councillor Peter Wakeford said: "The money for the feasibility study is being made available. For the first time there is real money on the table. There is great interest from potential consultants who are interested in what we are proposing."

Heritage organisations such as Southampton's Hall of Aviation, the Friends of Southampton Museums and Southampton Civic Society are among the groups in the city which have thrown their weight behind the ambitious plans.

The scheme is also backed by Associated British Ports and Ordnance Survey - two of the city's largest employers.

Chairman of the Southampton Heritage Foundation and director of Southampton's Hall of Aviation Alan Jones said: "The federation represents heritage as it stands in our city at the moment. This is not a city-driven thing. This really is the people of Southamp-ton saying we want our heritage centre and here we have a council who are now driving that forward."

News of the feasibility study was welcomed by the council's Conservative spokesman for leisure and tourism Councillor John Hannides, who also sits on the cross-party working group set up to get the heritage centre up and running.

In a motion which is due to be put to full council next Wednesday he accuses the council of making "slow progress" on the heritage project. He also warned that the feasibility study needed to be funded properly for it to be credible.