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Empty Benfleet shopping parade needs to be sorted
6:00am Wednesday 12th February 2014 in News
FED UP residents want a developer to push ahead with rebuilding a shopping parade which has become an “eyesore”after seven years of inaction.
Five businesses along High Road, Benfleet, were forced to close or relocate after developer Linatrop was granted permission to tear down the shopping parade to build four new shops and 13 flats with an underground car park.
The plans were originally approved in 2007, and then amended in 2013 to increase the number of shops to five.
However, councillors and residents are upset work is not progressing and the empty shops have been surrounded by unsightly hoarding.
Wendy Goodwin, Castle Point councillor for Boyce ward, said: “People in Benfleet need these shops, particularly at this end of the High Road.
“A lot of people were quite upset when they closed and everyone wants to see the parade up-and-running again.
“It is such an eyesore at the moment, it really is so unattractive.
“I know they have started knocking some things down so hopefully we will start to see something happen.”
The company had previously applied to build 15 flats instead of 13, prompting more than 1,000 people to sign a petition and the then MP, Bob Spink, to raise the issue in the House of Commons.
However, the plans were approved on their third try in August 2007, after amendments were made.
Bill Russell, of High Road, Benfleet, said: “There was a nice little newsagents there I used to pop into occasionally, but of course it shut with the others.
“I know they want to build some flats there and such, but I think everyone is just wondering why it is taking so long.
“It certainly doesn’t look very nice.”
The buildings are more than 50 years old and used to be home to a newsagent, physiotherapist, Unicef charity shop and a beauty salon.
Jeffrey Stanley, deputy leader of the council, said: “The shops that used to be there were really popular and now it is an eyesore.
“The hoardings put around there are disgraceful. They look as if they have been knocked around a bit.
“It is completely unacceptable as it is in such a prominent position.
It’s about time the developer starting building what they’ve got permission for.”
A spokeswoman for the council said: “We have spoken with the agents and are trying to encourage the developer to try to clear up the site.”
The Echo was unable to contact the developer for comment.