HAMPSHIRE is set to receive a massive £360m boost in a deal that aims to create thousands of jobs and new homes and revitalise the economy.
Major plans unveiled today include a new ferry terminal in Southampton, major improvements to Hampshire's road network and state-of-the-art facilities at two of the county's top colleges.
Funding for proposed new roads will help pave the way for 17,000 homes to be built in the region.
The Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is being given £124m of Government money to spend over the next five years.
But ministers say the huge project could result in Hampshire reaping a total of £360m in private and public investment.
The Solent Growth Deal is part of a £12 billion plan to boost Britain's economy by handing power and money to the regions.
The Daily Echo revealed in April that Solent LEP had submitted a bid for £200m.
Today's launch by the Government will include a series of ministerial trips to parts of the UK that are set to benefit, including the Solent area.
Business secretary Michael Fallon is due to visit Southampton's Red Funnel ferry terminal, which is due to move to a new site in the docks.
Its relocation will release land at the centre of a £450m plan to transform Southampton's waterfront, including Mayflower Park and the derelict Royal Pier.
As reported in the Daily Echo, the scheme could include a luxury hotel, a marina and a new purpose-built home for the PSP Southampton Boat Show.
Planners have already approved proposals for a 130ft Spitfire monument to be built in Mayflower Park.
Under the Solent Growth scheme £46m will be released in the first year as part of the Government's on-going commitment to the area and a further £78.8m will be handed over from 2016-2017 onwards.
Some of the money will be used to fund a new road at Whiteley, making it possible to build 3,500 homes in the north of the area.
Other sites earmarked for housing include the proposed new community of Welborne, north of Fareham.
Improvements will also be carried out to roads on the Gosport and Fareham peninsula. Stubbington will get a new bypass and changes will be made to the Peel Common roundabout in a further bid to ease daily gridlock.
A new science, technology and engineering block will be built at Brockenhurst College and Eastleigh College will also be upgraded.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said the huge investment in the Solent area could create as many as 5,000 jobs.
Cllr Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council and a director of Solent LEP said: “I'm absolutely delighted.
“It's been a long, hard-fought process. You don't get everything you ask for in life but we've got more than half the sum we bid for, which is wonderful news.
“It's a tremendous boost for the area.”
Cllr Royston Smith, leader of the Conservative group on Southampton City Council, said: “It shows the Government is keen to get the economy going as well devolving power, money and responsibility to the LEPs, which are dominated by business representatives rather than councillors.”
Hampshire will also benefit from the Government's decision to hand £118m to the Enterprise M3 LEP.
Most of the money will be spent in Surrey but improvements will be made to the A340 near Basingstoke to cut congestion in the area.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Growth Deals are a crucial part of our long-term programme to secure Britain's future.
“For too long our economy has been too London-focused and too centralised.
“Growth Deals will help change all that. They are about firing up our great towns and cities, boosting local economies and growth across the country.
“This historic deal means real change with for transport in the area including citing journey times from Gosport to Portsmouth and improving the ferry terminals between Southampton and the Isle of Wight.
“It will also bring forward thousands of new homes.
“By trusting local people, backing businesses and investing in infrastructure, skills and housing, we can create thousands of new jobs “And that means more economic security, peace of mind and a brighter future for hardworking people across the south.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg added: “We're putting power and money in the hands of people across the Solent who know how to spend it best.”
Gary Jeffries, chairman of Solent LEP, also hailed the scheme.
“Today's announcement will enable us to begin the process of transforming the Solent economy, bringing forward new homes and jobs at strategic sites, enhancing transport connectivity across the Solent, growing our skills base and supporting business growth.”
Mr Jeffries said the deal would help the LEP secure its long-term goal of securing 15,500 jobs and 24,000 homes in the Solent area.
What is the LEP?
Solent LEP was formed after the Government offered local areas the opportunity to take control of their economic development.
The locally owned partnership between businesses and local authorities plays a central role in determining economic priorities and creating jobs.
It was the first LEP in the country to have a fully-elected board of directors.
They include Doug Morrison, retired port director of Associated British Ports, and Russell Kew, chief executive of ferry operator Wightlink.