TALKS are under way to drive forward a £50million cinema and leisure development planned for Southend seafront.

Southend Council is understood to be in discussions with Turnstone Estates over the huge leisure park planned for Seaway car park.

It came as seafront traders claimed the council should go back to the drawing board because Turnstone has so far failed to secure planning permission for the development during the past four years.

The original lease, signed in 2014, stated the company should have consent agreed by December, this year.

Turnstone Estates, which bought the lease to Seaway for a nominal £1, could technically see the council ditch the plan.

However, the council hopes plans will be submitted within weeks and will not be looking to send it back to the drawing board, despite calls to do exactly that from traders.

Seafront business owners had hoped the failure to submit a planning application could lead to a complete renegotiation.

They hoped it would provide the opportunity to secure more parking spaces on the site.

Traders have long criticised the plans which they say would potentially see the 661 spaces currently available reduced to 480 in a new multi-story car park.

Paul Thompson, a member of the association and past chairman, said: “There is a potential for 1,000 parking spaces there and the council should retain control of the multi-storey car park.”

In a letter to council officers, Mr Thompson said: “Turnstone are fully aware of the terms of the 2014 contract and their obligations. If Turnstone chooses to submit a planning application that is clearly too late to achieve planning permission by December 10, then that is their choice.

“I see no reason why this late submission by Turnstone should contractually bind the council to an extended contract period. In fact to many residents this would seem an unreasonable course of action for the council to take given the poor financial terms agreed with Turnstone.”

The council, which will earn rental from businesses on the site, is said to be holding crunch talks with the developers, with information to emerge in coming days.

John Lamb, Tory leader of the council, said: “We are pleased Turnstone will submit their planning application very soon.

“The proposals would deliver a modern, vibrant and non-seasonal leisure, food and drink destination for the local community and visitors, create hundreds of jobs for local people as well as providing a new hotel to help meet our ever-growing tourism and business-travel demand.

“We look forward to receiving the detailed planning application in the coming few weeks at which point all the plans will be available to see and comment upon.”