Southampton City Council and Hammerson: transforming an inner city brownfield

WestQuay Watermark is the centrepiece of Southampton City Council’s ‘Heart of the City’ scheme, one of seven ‘Very Important Projects’ identified in the city centre masterplan. Delivered in collaboration between the public and private sectors with outstanding sustainability outcomes it illustrates the achievement possible between public-private leadership and investment.


It promotes the vision the council has for the city, and has become Southampton’s new city centre dining and leisure destination.

The WestQuay Watermark development has transformed a brownfield site into an iconic new leisure-led development, and has created a new public space showcased against the backdrop of the medieval town walls – a scheduled ancient monument. Delivered in collaboration between the public and private sectors with outstanding sustainability outcomes it illustrates the achievement possible between public-private leadership and investment.

The scheme is a result of a long term partnership between Hammerson and Southampton City Council which has delivered Westquay Shopping Centre and Westquay South, the latter being re-designed to ensure feasibility following macroeconomic factors in 2007.

Southampton City Council and Hammerson have forged a very strong partnership, working collaboratively to deliver a high quality scheme that contributes to Southampton City Council’s ambitious plans for economic growth. This partnership has radically improved the offering and reputation of the city of Southampton, further cementing our position as the destination city on the South Coast.

Dawn Baxendale, Chief Executive, Southampton City Council

The development is located on a brownfield site of reclaimed land adjacent to the existing shopping centre and medieval town walls that used to mark the seafront. The development sought to enhance Westquay Shopping Centre by creating an iconic, high quality leisure destination which would encourage footfall and dwell time, and cater for a variety of visitors during the day and evening.

Three key site constraints influenced the building design:

  • maintaining the sightline from Catchcold Tower in the town walls, (a scheduled ancient monument), towards the waterfront
  • ensuring a minimum building distance of 42m away from the town walls and the creation of a new public esplanade
  • managing a level difference of 7m from the top of the town walls to the north eastern boundary of the site and the site level along Harbour Parade.

At the heart of the development is the public esplanade, created with the support of £7 million Regional Growth Funding (RGF), which is designed to create a new distinctive area of public realm.

The grant also unlocked the development of a cinema and 24 restaurants. The promenade restaurants have external terraces, providing additional activity to the esplanade fountains and curated events programmes including light shows, festivals, sports events and an ice rink.

Key outcomes

  • The partnership achieved sustainability outcomes for the local authority including 103,981 people days worked on the project, 45 per cent local workers.
  • Nineteen apprentices, 16 work experience placements and three graduates were employed.
  • Twelve unemployed people were supported into work.
  • Over 1,000 construction and end user full time jobs were created, satisfying the RGF targets.
  • The project generated over £100,000 of investment in community projects.
  • The partnership worked with 34 local not-for-profit organisations.
  • The partnership funded 36 people in management training.
  • The partnership funded training for 150 long-term unemployed people with the majority securing work.
  • Thousands of local people were engaged via community roadshows.
  • A dedicated recruitment one stop shop, Westquay Works, was created and sustained post completion.
  • Seventy-nine per cent of end user roles went to Southampton residents.
  • Excellent post-completion assessment from Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM).

Westquay South is an architecturally iconic destination, which has regenerated and integrated a new piece of urban fabric into Southampton City Centre through close collaboration between the public and private sectors.

Guy Wells, Development Manager, Hammerson