A NEW multiplex cinema for Southend could kick start the regeneration of a seafront car park.

Southend Council’s ambitious plans to redevelop Seaway car park and create St John’s Quarter could finally be coming to the fore with talks between officers and a cinema operator.

A planning application could be coming soon for a ten screen cinema - a second cinema for the town.

John Lamb, deputy council leader with responsibility for regeneration, said: ”We are set to have an application coming through to build a multiplex cinema on part of Seaway car park.

"It’s early stages but it’s looking very promising and we want to see it take off.

“It would be a large multiplex cinema of ten screens. We’ve not had an application yet but this could regenerate the whole area and provide more jobs.”

The plans were discussed during the closed session of the cabinet meeting held last week when senior councillors were updated about the 8.5 acres car park off Lucy Road.

They agreed to proceed with the developer - now understood to be a cinema operator - as a 'special purchaser'

It was also agreed that the leisure part could be delivered ahead of any residential uses.

The proposal to create St John’s Quarter was first developed with the now defunct Renaissance Southend in 2005.

It was designed with a new shopping centre, town square and boulevard leading from Tylers Avenue car park to Marine Parade with bar and restaurants.

It was controversial as it emerged people living in Herbert Grove may be bought out as it was central to the plan.

The council already owns the Rossi ice cream factory, on the corner of Lucy Road, and the house next door as well as Seaway car park.

The council is keen to improve on its annual revenue stream of £277,000 from the car park and to share in long-term income from the development.

Mr Lamb said of the latest cinema plans: “It will open up the whole area down to the seafront and be good for the town.

“We’d get to keep some of the car park and would have to look where we can reallocate the coach parking but that’s just detail.

“If we needed to and only if it was necessary we would have compulsory purchase orders so we can use those powers.

“I’d like to see it move forward as quickly as possible this year.”

Simon Patterson, chair of Southend Seafront Illuminations and Business Association, said his concern was still about parking as there was not enough at present.

He said: “It’s a good idea but we can’t afford to lose any parking. I’d like to see what the plans show as we don’t have enough parking now.

“The plot of land owned by the Inner London Group behind the Foresters is used as a car park temporarily if that is redeveloped. There would be no point in developing Seaway if there’s no increase in parking as people won’t be able to use the leisure and retail units if they can’t park.”

Dawn Jeakings, manager of Royals shopping centre, said: "I think it's a really good idea as it will help attract other restaurants and businesses and in turn bring more people to us."