Back in 2012 when Southampton launched its Master Plan, it’s true to say there was a real desire to turn the theory into reality.
In 2012 hundreds gathered at Southampton Football Club to find out more about the ambitious plans for the city that forecast up to 24,000 new jobs and £3bn investment over the next 20 years.
The launch attracted potential investors and developers from across the UK who wanted to find out more about Southampton and what it had to offer.
The aim of the Master Plan was to create a city centre that enhanced Southampton’s appeal as a great place to do business, visit and live.
It was designed to give businesses and investors the confidence that Southampton’s ambition was matched by a clear vision and ability to deliver.
Walking around the city today, just five years on, evidence of that clear vision is there for all to see.
More major schemes than at any time since the post-war years are underway or have been completed.
The ‘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.
Mike Harris, Director of Growth sums it up best.
“If you look at the VIP projects that we set out in the Master Plan, and you look at those that have been completed or are in train, it is an impressive list.
“Westquay, Studio 144, Southampton Solent University’s new Spark building, the former Fruit & Vegetable market – the city looks a different place.”
“But the truth is, Southampton doesn’t just look like a different place, it feels different too – it feels like a place with momentum.”
Seeing evidence of so much happening in the city and having the Master Plan in place has given investors confidence to commit their money into the future of the city.
“Investors are now interested in Southampton – they know if they come to speak to us things are going to happen.
“They can see we have a plan. We’ve set out what we want to do and it is ambitious.
“They can also see that we have delivered and they are investing on the strength of that ability to deliver,” explained Mike.
The next exciting piece in the jigsaw that looks likely to be put in place is the development of the Central Business District (CBD). Running from the south of Southampton Train Station to the proposed Royal Pier Waterfront development a new CBD would include offices, homes, cafés, bars and retail outlets.
“We are talking to some key city stakeholders who are interested in the concept we are developing.
“Demand for office space is improving. We are not quite there yet with speculative office builds but the new White Building in the city centre and refurbished offices in Ocean Village are really good examples of the sort of office space we need in the city.
“We can see there is investment happening in the city and we want to take advantage of that. Southampton City Council and institutional investors are talking about the next phase of development parts of the CBD could be complete in the next five years,” explained Mike.
“Southampton was, in large part, a city designed in the post-war period and added to in the 70s and 80s. It was right for the time but we now know that successful cities look and feel different.
“They are less zoned and more connected to allow people to easily move around,” he said.
Improving connectivity across the region and within the city of Southampton has been the subject of the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership’s (Solent LEB) Transport Investment Plan.
Phase 1 of the Solent Metro, linking Southampton Airport to the city’s waterfront by rail with trams or trains, is currently under discussion by the Solent LEP.
“It is a long-term plan and the Solent LEP is enthused and funding initial stages.
“Southampton is a very compact city and if we get it right regarding cycling, walking and buses, it could be very effective and we wouldn’t need huge engineering solutions,” he said.
More information on development opportunities in Southampton