CITY chiefs have pledged to rescue a threatened multi-million pound inner city facelift - by doing it themselves.

Southampton's historic St Mary Street has been earmarked for a £14 million revamp which would see run-down homes and shops replaced by townhouses.

But council bosses fear the company behind the project could pull out because the government has refused to give it all the cash it says it needs.

Now Southampton City Council has pledged to buy up large chunks of the area if developer Bellway Urban Renewal withdraws.

Regeneration chief Paul Jenks told the Daily Echo that the rescue package was in place.

The council is due to hear in the next seven days if Bellway is going to walk away from the project, which has been three years in the making.

If the council doesn't step in, the revamp - pivotal to the whole £80 million city regeneration scheme - could collapse entirely.

And with just three years left to run, no major work has yet been carried out in St Mary's.

Councillor Jenks pledged: "If necessary we'll do the work ourselves. The street already has a compulsory purchase order on it, so we could buy it up and then market the site ourselves to developers.

"I know we'd have at least ten developers interested tomorrow - there wouldn't be a problem. But we have to do something, there are only three years left."

Problems over the Bellway scheme centre on how much public money the private developers need to carry out their planned demolition and rebuild of townhouses and shops.

Bellway has asked for £5.5 million, but the government agency for the South East (Seeda) is not prepared to stump up the full amount.

A spokesman from Seeda said the difference between the two parties is a "couple of hundred thousand pounds".

Informal talks are now under way between the two parties, discussing the possibility of the developer walking away from the three-year-old scheme altogether, he added.

No-one from Bellway was available for comment yesterday.

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