Construction work on Birmingham's long-awaited Arena Central development - a scheme which will include the iconic 50-storey V Building tower - could begin early in 2008.

The timetable was outlined yesterday by Keith Miller, chief executive of privately-owned Miller Group, one of the firms involved in the huge £500 million project, which has been subject to industry discussion since the late 1990s.

Miller is one of the partners which make up Arena Central Developments, a joint venture set up with Bridgehouse Capital, controlled by local entrepreneur Andy Ruhan. Irish firm Dandara is the development partner for the 175 metre high tower.

An application for detailed planning consent is shortly to be submitted to Birmingham City Council. If given the green light, Arena Central Developments, which has already negotiated a 250-year groundlease on the 2.3 million sq ft site, bordered by Suffolk Street Queensway, Broad Street, Bridge Street and Holliday Street, hopes to see construction work start around next spring.

Enabling works have already started following the grant of the new groundlease.

The joint venture now controls the whole site, including the landmark 200,000 sq ft Alpha Tower building which looks set to be sold. Mr Miller confirmed that negotiations for the building, whose tenants include departments of the city council, were ongoing, but declined to name interested parties or a possible selling price.

Meanwhile, Miller Group, the UK's largest independent housebuiding, property development and construction business, posted a five per cent increase in pretax profit and exceptionals for the half year to June 30. Profits rose from the previous year's figure of £34.1 million to £35.8 million. The group also said it had a record construction order book of £650 million.

The company is to pay a ten per cent increase in its interim dividend, which rises to 15.6p per share. Mr Miller told shareholders: "Against the backdrop of five interest rate increases since August 2006, the group made good progress in the first half of 2007 with all three businesses performing ahead of expectations."

Chairman Bob Speirs added: "The group is in good shape and possesses considerable strengths.

"We have a strong balance sheet, housing and commercial property assets with a completed value of over £6 billion, a record construction order book of £650 million and highly experienced management teams."

Robert Hepwood, managing director of Miller Homes West Midlands region, said: "We had an excellent first six months achieving volume and profit targets in a challenging market.

"Whilst the market is likely to remain a challenge I believe that we have an excellent product range and a superb portfolio of sites which will enable us to continue our regional growth plans."