A NEW fruit and vegetable market district in Southampton’s Old Town has moved a step closer, with the first plans due to be lodged in weeks.

The market redevelopment, spanning the Old Town, Holyrood and Queens Park, is one of seven “very important projects” in a visionary £2.6 billion city masterplan for the next 20 years bringing more than 24,000 jobs.

It is hoped the proposed development would enjoy the same lure as the some London’s most historic markets such as Portobello Road and Borough Market.

The proposed mixed development, worth tens of millions of pounds, would included a new covered market hall, hundreds of new homes, shops and offices, a public square with an arts building and tree-lined streets.

Housing association Raglan will kick-start the regeneration with £5m plans for 43 new homes on the site of the former McClusky’s and New York New York nightclub in Queensway. The plans are due to be submitted in the coming weeks.

Council leader Royston Smith said: “A lot of the area is underutilised and regeneration would breathe new life into it. This is the first step on the way to bringing the masterplan alive.”

The market district redevelopment already has the backing of a group of planning experts at business Solent, a network of nearly 200 major city employers.

The masterplan drawn up by consultants envisages a new covered market hall for a site opposite the bombed-out Holyrood Church on the junction of Bernard Street and the High Street.

Townhouses would be built in Market Square along Bernard Street. Warehouses between Back of the Walls and Queensway would be bulldozed to become a new “urban” square with an arts building. And a landmark apartment tower is also proposed to front Bernard Street.

Councillor Smith said it would be down to developers and investors to bring the regeneration to fruition over the next five years, but he said the council would pave the way through planning policies and negotiations with existing businesses to encourage them to relocate to better locations.

The city masterplan also includes a new world-class waterfront, a remastered city centre, and a transformed train station.

A consultation on a planning blueprint to implement the masterplan runs until March 23.