A SOUTHAMPTON MP has branded the city council’s intention to invest £27m into a new office building as “too risky”.

Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith has hit out at city bosses after Southampton City Council has unveiled plans to build a new office building at the former Toys R Us site in Western Esplanade.

As reported, the office space will be part of a £150m project which will see 275 flats, shops, restaurants, possibly a gym and a hotel at the site.

At a council meeting set to take place on September 18 civic chiefs will seek approval to fund the £27m through external borrowing.

But Mr Smith has warned the authority and said the investment would be “too risky”.

He added: “If it was financially viable the private sector would come and do it. What the council is doing is just building and paying for a building with no one going in it and the chances are that no-one will come and if no-one will come they will be paying for a building that would be empty.”

He said he supports the city council’s desire to redevelop the former Toys R Us site.

“But not when they risk millions of pounds of our money with no idea if they will ever manage to recoup any of the investment and potentially leaving the taxpayer to foot the bill,”he said.

Mr Smith added: “I have no issue with the scale of Southampton City Council’s ambition, I applaud it. However, the city’s taxpayers need to understand the risk the Labour Council are intending to take with our money.The £27 million of borrowing for this development is huge and will cost millions per year just to service the loan.”

He said no private sector developer will build new office provision outside of London unless they first have a tenant. “The city council has tried and failed for years to attract this sort of investment but no one will risk capital without knowing they will see a return on their investment,”he added.

Meanwhile, earlier this week Giles Semper, the executive director of Go!Southampton, the Business Improvement District (BID) for the city centre, said the inclusion of 70,000 sq ft of lettable office space is “a good start” but more offices are needed at the site in order to create a Central Business District (CBD).

Cllr Christopher Hammond, council leader at SCC, previously said there is a proven market for purpose built office accommodation in Southampton. He and SCC were approached for comment but they were unable to provide one before the paper went to press.