A MAJOR exhibitor is quitting Southampton Guildhall after 25 years because of the cost of using the city centre on Sundays.

Next month's exhibition at the venue will be the last for the Solent Model Railway Group, which has decided to move its annual showpiece event to a venue in Eastleigh.

A spokesman for the group said: "We are very sorry to leave the Guildhall but it has now become too expensive to put on the size and quality of an event that the Eurotrack exhibition in Southampton has become.

"It is not just the ever-increasing price of hiring the Guildhall and its amenities, but the council with its restrictive parking programme.

"It is very difficult and expensive for the public to visit such an event, especially with Sunday charges on meters and car parks."

The Eurotrack Exhibition takes place this year on February 24 and 25. Organisers will run a free bus service from the railway station through the city to the Guildhall and back, to assist anyone coming in by train.

The city authority became embroiled in a major row last autumn, after it decided to introduce parking charges on Sundays.

Opposition politicians and church leaders forced the City Council into a compromise where charges were introduced from noon.

Nigel Green, operations manager for South-ampton Guildhall, said: "They haven't spoken to me about it. Until they do, it wouldn't be right to comment."

A spokesman for Southampton City Council said: "We feel the price of charges for exhibitions is competitive. It reflects the central location. It's unfortunate, we are sorry they feel that way."