A THEATRE in the heart of Southend, which has become a target for vandals, may be demolished.

An application has been drawn up to tear down the New Empire Theatre in Alexandra Street, Southend, after it was sold for about £750,000.

A company based in Hong Kong, which has not yet been revealed, wants to transform the town centre site into flats, shops and a community centre.

Plans to refurbish the 120-year-old building were dismissed because of its poor state.

A year ago its roof collapsed, destroying part of the first floor auditorium.

A spokesman for John Breley Design Ltd, which is representing the mystery owner, said: “The plans are at an early stage at the moment.

“Unfortunately there a lot of problems with the building not being used for so long. The important thing is to get on with the demolition of the site which has been plagued by antisocial behaviour.

“We will submit a planning application in due course for a mixed development of the site which consist of retail, flats and a community hall.”

Milton ward councillors told the Echo they will be looking closely at the plans to ensure the replacement building is suitable for the area.

Labour’s Julian Ware-Lane said: “The building is in a poor state with reports of rats and other vermin. I’m not sure what architectural merit the building has but we need to keep what it has.

“I cautiously welcome the plan. I think a lot of architectural delights leave a lot to be desired so I would want to see something that will sit cheek by jowl with some the town’s most beautiful architecture.

“We want something that would be sympathetic with places like Royal Terrace and Prittlewell Square.”

Conservative Southend councillor Jonathan Garston also broadly welcomed the plans.

He said: “We will need to have a very good look but I’m pleased the scheme is moving forward because there has been so much antisocial behaviour.

“We’ll keep a close eye on what’s being proposed but in general, I support it.

“We’ll look at what features of the current building will be kept and also what community facilities will be offered.

“We’ll also have to look at parking provision and infrastructure.”