A new hotel is at the forefront of revamped plans for a huge £50million development on Southend seafront.

Turnstone Estates want to bring a ten-screen cinema and 12 restaurants to the Seaway car park, off Lucy Road, dubbed Southend’s answer to “Bas Vegas.”

A year on from unveiling the plans, the Cambridge-based developer has dropped plans for flats, added extra parking, an 80-bedroom hotel, and a leisure centre to the scheme, and will put it on show later this month to people.

The firm’s managing director Tim Deacon said he will try and push through his scheme before the rival retail complex at Fossetts Farm gets planning permission, as he said it could “decimate” the Southend High Street and jeopardise his plans.

The new Southend United stadium at Fossetts Farm, backed by British Land, features 35 shops, ten restaurants, and a Cineworld cinema – who had originally signed up with Turnstone.

Mr Deacon said: “We are still committed to this project - we don’t usually move forward with a scheme before an anchor tenant has been signed up, but having an outline planning application approved proves the scheme's deliverability.

“Fossetts Farm will cast a huge cloud over the viability of the scheme that’s why we’re looking to press on with getting ours through and start work on site by end of 2016.

“Cinema operators will look at it, and if they think there’s too much competition, they may be wary, the same with Cineworld at Fossetts Farm. I believe this town only needs two cinemas.”

Mr Deacon said he was in discussions with two interested cinema operators, including one that could bring an Imax screen to the development, but said they were waiting to see what happens with Fossetts Farm.

Turnstone Estates will be looking to put in an outline planning application early next year, with a view to having it decided by Spring.

The plans have been re-jigged, and plans for 99 apartments as part of the scheme have been ditched in favour of the 80-bedroom, five-storey hotel.

Mr Deacon added: “There are plenty of apartments coming through in Southend, take Marine Plaza for example.

“There is a demand for hotels, especially in the town centre and seafront.”

Turnstone were signed up by Southend Council to develop the site, which has been a long-term aspiration for the authority.

And leader Ron Woodley, an Independent, said he was “pleased” the developer was still committed to the project despite the spectre of Fossetts Farm.

He said: “Ron Martin and British Land have their views, and I have mine, but I think when you have six and a half million visitors per year, and cinema complex and restaurants close to the seafront, where would you rather go? You’d go there.

“If Fossetts Farm comes through, we need to see what we can do as a council to make sure it complements the town centre, not take business away.”

Turnstone Estate’s public consultation takes place at the Royals Shopping Centre, on Wednesday, December 16, from 12pm to 7pm

CGI of the proposed Seaway scheme


We have listened to traders, developers say

The developers say they have listened to seafront traders by offering more parking spaces.

In their original plans, Turnstone Estates had proposed a 480 multi-storey car park to be built over the current 450-space one at Seaway, but have now upgraded the number of bays.

Extra surface level parking at the east of the site will be put in instead of apartments, boosting the number of spaces to around 500, with the final number not yet known.

The coach park on site will also stay, while fresh plans for a leisure centre, which could include a gym, indoor climbing centre, and soft play area have also been put forward, as well as the hotel.

Tim Deacon, the firm’s managing director, said: “We have listened to various people who have been nervous about car parking issues on site.”

Seafront traders had been vocal in raising concerns over a perceived lack of car parking capacity on the seafront, with big residential development Marine Plaza being built on a car park but offering little replacement customer parking.

Paul Thompson, chairman of the Southend Seafront Traders’ Association, said: “It’s encouraging they are listening and providing a hotel, that is a good idea, but it all boils down the amount of spaces they are proposing.

Paul Thompson

“I think they would need 750 car parking spaces upwards, if you look at Fossetts Farm that will have 1,000 and Festival Leisure in Basildon has 2,000 spaces.”


Southend's Bas Vegas?

The Seaway hub was dubbed Southend’s answer to Basildon’s “Bas Vegas” leisure park when it was first unveiled.

For years, Southend Council had been trying to get a developer to bankroll a redevelopment of the car park as part of grandiose plans to transform Southend town centre, many of which have fallen by the wayside.

Signing up Turnstone Estates, who have done major redevelopments in Cambridge city centre and St. Neots town, was seen as a coup.

Back in December 2014 when they were unveiled, they said work could start on site by the end of 2015, with a two year build time, with the leisure part of the site coming first.

It started with a bang – Cineworld were the project’s worst kept secret as the cinema tenant, while Chiquito, Coast 2 Coast, and Frankie and Benny’s all signed leases of three of the restaurant units.

But Cineworld instead signed on the dotted line with British Land’s rival retail complex at Fossetts Farm, because of complications over the height they wanted for their building at Seaway.

Turnstone Estates is now in discussions with two other cinema operators.

The major plans, which also include demolishing the Rossi Ice Cream factory to create a public plaza outside St. John’s Church, will now go to public consultation later this month.

It will create 450 jobs if all 12 restaurant units are filled, which the developers are confident of filling.