Southampton’s transformation

    Southampton’s ambitious city centre Master Plan has played a pivotal role in the city’s transformation over the past five years, delivering almost £2 billion worth of development with proposals for at least a further £1b in the pipeline.

    Southampton has established an enviable reputation for delivering large-scale investment projects and the Council is continuing to work with like-minded investors, developers, and occupiers who want to join in the city’s success.

    The ambitious plans for the city forecast up to 24,000 new jobs and £3b investment over the next 20 years, with the aim being to create a city centre that enhances Southampton’s appeal as a great place to do business, visit and live. 

    However, this isn’t all about new buildings and development – it’s about the jobs they bring. Southampton’s unemployment rate stands at just 1.6% and the ground breaking approach to supporting city residents into work and new careers ensures businesses are gaining great employees.

    Walking around the city today, just five years on, and it already looks a very different place. Evidence of the clear vision set out in the Master Plan is there for all to see:

    The new leisure and dining development at Westquay South is complemented by superb public-realm improvements with the city’s medieval walls providing a dramatic backdrop to the events space.

    Studio 144, located in the cultural quarter brings two world-class arts organisations – Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST) and the John Hansard Gallery – into the heart of the city together with media and film specialists City Eye along with restaurants and apartments.

    Southampton Solent University’s new Spark building will soon be joined by a new high-quality sports and teaching facility as part of a £100 million estate redevelopment plan that will transform the East Park Terrace campus.

    Bow Square is Southampton’s first private rental scheme of 280 one and two-bed apartments and 900 sq m of commercial space which replaces the former rundown warehouses of the fruit and vegetable market.

    These ‘Very Important Projects’ (VIPs), identified for redevelopment, are now becoming part of Southampton’s new landscape and contributing to the creation of a vibrant and energetic city centre. If you look at the VIP projects set out in the Master Plan all of them are either completed, under construction or in the development pipeline. More major schemes than any time since the post-war years are underway or have already been completed.

    Having the Master Plan in place has given investors confidence to commit their money into the future of the city, and the VIP projects have acted as the stimulus for other developments across the city centre. These include Southampton Harbour Hotel and Spa and associated residential development at Ocean Village, the Admiral’s Quay residential and restaurant scheme (also at Ocean Village), hotels for Premier Inn and Travelodge, and a plethora of student housing and office refurbishment projects.

    There is obvious investment in infrastructure and the QE2 mile, Guildhall Square, Station Quarter North, and Kingsbridge Lane are great examples of this. Funding from central government and Associated British Ports (ABP) has been used to create major improvements to the highway access to the Eastern Docks. These improvements have supported Southampton’s role as the major Northern European cruise port with more than 500 ship visits in 2017 and also the role it plays in facilitating UK motor vehicle exports.

    Dawn Baxendale, the City Council’s chief executive, commented: “I feel immensely proud of what we have achieved in Southampton and it’s been a real team effort, with the council, its partners, and the community we serve all working together.”

    The Council is committed to maintaining the momentum beyond the VIP sites proposed in the Master Plan. Regeneration of Itchen Riverside, from the Itchen Bridge to Northam Bridge, has already commenced with Inland Homes waterfront developments on the west bank at Meridian Riverside and Chapel Riverside both under construction. On the eastern bank to the south of the Itchen Bridge, Crest Homes is continuing with its 1600 home Centenary Quay development and associated commercial development and Southern Water is completely rebuilding the adjoining Waste Water Treatment Plant.

    US-owned GE Blade Dynamics has recently been granted planning permission for its new research and prototyping facility for a revolutionary new blade for the offshore energy industry. Even before commencing work on this development the company is proposing to submit a revised proposal that will also include test facilities for the new blades.

    These developments will act as the catalyst for further regeneration on both banks of the River Itchen.

    To the west of the existing city centre, plans are being put together to create a whole new neighbourhood that will provide for integrated residential, office and leisure uses stretching from the Central Station to the waterfront. Under the working title of the Central Business District, this collection of development sites will build upon the recent investments that have created Westquay South, the Premier Inn and IKEA. 

    Beyond the city centre, redevelopment of the former Ford site, close to Junction 5 of the M27 and Southampton Airport, is being undertaken by Mountpark. Phase 1 totalling 44,500 sq m will be complete and let by the end of 2017 and Inchcape has submitted a planning application for the development of a new JLR showroom to the west of Wide Lane. Adjoining the M271 west of Southampton, Peel Logisitcs is now on site with its 19,000 sq m logistics scheme with the first of the three units becoming available early in 2018.

    Investors are now attracted to Southampton, they know that if they approach the Council things are going to happen.

    Improving the public realm has undoubtedly changed how people feel about walking around the city. There have been major improvements to the built environment running from north to south and east to west of the city centre.

    Higher education and medical services are key features of the city’s economy. A new £25m Centre for Cancer Immunology will soon open at the University Hospital and will be the first dedicated cancer immunology centre in the UK, undertaking ground-breaking research into using the body’s immune system to eradicate cancer. Connected to leading institutions worldwide, this cutting-edge research hub will enable interdisciplinary teams to expand clinical trials, explore new areas and develop lifesaving drugs.

    Very clearly the city is now regarded as somewhere that has fundamentally changed the way it is operating. There is interest from both across the UK and internationally relating to the new economic development opportunities in Southampton.

    Specifically, investors want to know how the city has been promoted, how regulatory functions have been successfully utilised and how this success has been communicated. There is particular interest in how relationships have been forged with the private sector to change the face of the city.

    The British Property Federation has been to Southampton with a raft of people to find out what has been done and are using the city as a case study to inform government policy.

    There is a whole range of ingredients that make Southampton great. It’s in a great location, next to the famous waters of the Solent and close to the New Forest National Park. There’s fantastic heritage in the city and the cultural offer has been invested in heavily over the past few years.

    There is a definite commitment to being a city that delivers a rich quality of life for the people who live and work here.

    Dawn Baxendale’s message to investors, developers and business coming to Southampton is clear and simple: “This is a city where you can do business. We have the workforce, we have the facilities, the cultural background and accommodation. You can make your business grow here.”