doc

A LANDMARK building could be refurbished after its owner reached a deal with council chiefs after seven years.

Robin Levy, who owns the Bell Hotel in Leigh Hill, Leigh, has agreed to create four flats as part of a development of 20 new homes at the site.

The building, which would become five flats under the latest proposals, ceased being a hotel in the Fifties. Mr Levy has spent seven years negotiating with Southend Council to come up with a plan for the site.

The latest scheme, which does not include a hotel, will still have to be approved by councillors at next week’s development control committee meeting before it can go ahead.

However, Andrew Lewis, the council’s corporate director of enterprise, tourism and the environment, has recommended it for approval.

He said: “The Bell Hotel building is of high quality design, but has been disused for some time and is run-down in appearance.

“The refurbishment of this building is therefore welcomed and will, in principle, improve the character of the area.”

Mr Levy, who also owns Element nightclub in Southend, bought the hotel in 2005.

Various plans to revamp the premises, usually involving flats and extensions alongside a new hotel, failed to get the approval from councillors or planning inspectors.

After repeated rejections, he was finally given approval for three blocks of 15 flats, alongside the refurbished hotel, in October 2009.

But last year Mr Levy claimed a reopened hotel would not make money if he brought it back into use. He also demanded the council drop a condition requiring four of the 20 flats to be priced below their market value, to help first-time buyers on the property ladder.

Mr Levy has now agreed to provide those lower-cost homes, in return for permission to convert the hotel itself into another five flats.

The news was welcomed by neighbours who have grown sick of the hotel’s appearance.

Tim Grosvenor, 42, who lives in nearby Seaview Road, said: “I just want them to get on with it.

“It’s been so long coming. As long as the hotel is restored and looks nice, I think most people will be happy.”

Mr Levy was not available for comment.