A battle fit for the big screen is coming to a town near you after it emerged an Imax cinema was being discussed for Southend seafront.

Just a day after the Echo revealed a new Cineworld was being planned as part of Southend United's ambitious new stadium plans at Fossetts Farm, it is understood an Imax could be the centrepiece of the Seaway car park development.

Cineworld pulled out of the £50million car park redevelopment plan to concentrate of Fossetts Farm, but Turnstone Estates, who are behind the Seaway plans, told the Echo they are in negotiations with three other cinema operators, and they hope to have an Imax screen as part of the deal.

When asked whether this spelt the end of the Seaway plans, Tim Deacon, director of Turnstone Estates, said: “No. It makes us more determined to deliver the scheme we set out to do.

“We are very much committed to this project still. This is not just about getting the right cinema but also the range of restaurants and bars the town has been lacking.

“Delivering this mix of uses at Seaway also supports and complements the town centre and seafront as a destination for families to visit and enjoy leisure time.

“It’s too early to announce our selected anchor tenant which may include an Imax screen.”

The new Seaway and Fossetts cinemas would add to the existing Odeon located at the top of Southend High Street, but Mr Deacon believes the town only needs one more cinema, and he said that should be in the town centre.

Basildon’s Empire cinema boats an Imax screen, and there have been comparisons between the Seaway redevelopment, off Lucy Road, and Festival Leisure Park.

Seaway will have 10 restaurants in a complex below the cinema, with Frankie and Benny’s, Chicquito and Coast 2 Coast already signed up before construction takes place.

While Southend Council leader Ron Woodley admitted that Southend only needs two cinemas, he was happy his administration’s developers, Turnstone, were still committed to the project.

He said: “In terms of our own plans for Seaways car park, we continue to work in partnership with Turnstone Estates who remain committed to this exciting project that will provide a much needed family leisure destination in the town centre.

“I will leave it up to them to decide the finer details of the scheme.

“I don’t think Southend can take three cinemas, but it can take two. But remember we are serving Rochford and Rayleigh, as well as parts of Castle Point.”


CGI of the Seaway complex

Fossetts Farm could see Southend High Street 'fall flat on its face'

Fears have been raised the new out of town cinema and stadium plan could see Southend High Street fall "flat on its face".

Both Southend Council leader Ron Woodley and Tory opposition chief, John Lamb, are concerned about plans to bring a 12-screen Cineworld, 35 retail units, and 10 restaurant spaces to Fossetts Farm, off Royal Artillery Way.

The plans are the brainchild of Southend United chairman Ron Martin in his quest to build a new 22,000 seater stadium complex.

Back in 2013, the council agreed to accept Mr Martin's offer of a £3.5million payment to offset any damage caused to the high street by the retail element of the plans.

However, councillors and business leaders believe this won't be enough to prevent problems as a survey by the Royals Shopping Centre in 2012 found that a retail development on Fossetts Farm would take away five per cent of High Street footfall.

Mr Woodley said: “I am worried about the town centre, but we need to look into the final details with Fossetts Farm to make sure the High Street does not fall flat on its face.

“When the planning application is submitted, we will understand what is going in there, and us as a council, businesses, and Turnstone Estates will sit down and look at that.

“Then we will see what type of investment and the attractions needed for the High Street, otherwise it could suffer severely.”

Echo: Southend High Street is on theup

Fears - Southend High Street

Mr Lamb, who was cabinet member for regeneration when Mr Martin was last heavily involved with negotiating with the council, said: “The problem with the development at Fossetts Farm is that it will affect the High Street.

“The High Street has held up well but you can’t open up Fossetts Farm for development without damaging the High Street, if no compensation is given.”

Critics argue that Festival Leisure Park in Basildon, and the Mayflower Retail Park, off the A127, have ushered a decline in Basildon's town centre.

Dawn Jeakings, who is manager of the Royals Shopping Centre and chairman of Southend Business Improvement District, said: “For me it’s a bit disappointing that the development has been taken out of the centre of town to go external, which has not worked in Basildon, however any development for the town that will bring more people in would be a good thing.”

Blues chairman Ron Martin, who has had new stadium plans in the pipeline for 15 years, revealed the first phase of the development will be bankrolled by real estate company British Land.

As well as the retail and the cinema, the plans will include 1,000 free parking spaces, 170 apartments, and a three-sided stadium, with the final side to be built at a later date with a 22,000 final capacity.

A new planning application on the re-shaped Fossetts Farm plans are expected to be submitted to the council by December, according to chief executive Rob Tinlin.

Echo: An artist’s impression of the Sainsbury’s at Roots Hall

Dead in the water? CGI of Sainsbury's proposed Roots Hall store

Sainsbury's question mark

Sainsbury's claims it is continuing to talk to Southend United, despite the Blues’ chairman publically doubting whether they will build a new supermarket on Roots Hall.

The supermarket giant was the original bankroller of the Fossetts Farm plans and planned to build a new store of the existing football ground.

However, Ron Martin told the club’s AGM in April he had concerns over whether Sainsbury’s was going to redevelop the club’s current home ground and announced yesterday that real estate company British Land were his partner for the latest Fossetts Farm proposals.

Sainsbury’s has refused to comment further on its intentions for Roots Hall, a spokesman saying: “We are working with the club on this, but the nature of those discussions are commercially sensitive.”

Neil Bates, principal of Prospects College, has wanted to sell off his old college site next to Roots Hall for years, but claims Sainsbury’s have reneged on the deal several times.

He claims lost land sales have cost him £3.5million.

He said: “Unfortunately this doesn’t answer the question of whether Sainsbury’s finally withdraw from the development or whether there are going to be any new proposals to the development at Roots Hall.

“The two are inextricably linked because the club can’t develop Roots Hall separately from Fossetts Farm, so I’m still waiting with baited breath.”