BASILDON Council has voted to force people out of their shops in order to build a new leisure complex.

Councillors agreed compulsory purchase orders will be used to remove any shops which get in the way of the East Square entertainment development going ahead.

The action was agreed on Thursday night at a meeting of the policy, oversight and strategy committee.

The ambitious leisure complex was given planning approval on Tuesday and includes a ten-screen Empire cinema and six restaurants.

To make way for the development several properties will have to be demolished including shops housing the Salvation Army, Cancer Research, the Percy Ingle bakery, Grace Hair and Beauty, and Cash Converters.

Mark Wintle, manager of the Salvation Army store, said: “Throughout the whole process we’ve not heard anything about what is happening.

“I hope that now this has gone through council they will start informing our head office.

“There are a number of empty units in the area and we hoped they would relocate our stores to those units but the council doesn’t own them all and so it is unlikely to be possible

“Hopefully we will get some kind of solid information soon as it is frustrating at the very least.”

Councillor Tony Hedley, chairman of the regeneration committee, said the council has been engaging with business owners since 2016 through a series of consultation events.

He said: “The council has undertaken extensive engagement with the local and business communities at key stages of the design the process, particularly with the properties adjoining the development.

“We are also in ongoing negotiations with the leaseholders who are directly affected by the development.

“Engagement has also taken place with key landowners and letters of support for the scheme have been received.”

Councillors on the committee raised several questions about the decision to go ahead with the development but these were dismissed because approval had already been granted by the appropriate committee.

Independent councillor Derrick Fellowes, of the Nethermayne ward, said: “I am trying to understand what the exposure to our residents would be if this was to go belly-up and we have to take that risk into consideration.

“What is that in financial terms if we have a problem?

“How tight is the agreement with the Empire cinema operators - if they suddenly think it doesn’t look viable and pull out what are we left with?”

Adele Brown, Basildon Labour party leader, is among those supporting the new development.

She said the decision to develop Basildon’s economy and make it a destination people want to come to was the right one for the future of the town centre.