HUNDREDS of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ cash has been “gambled” on a new £50million seafront leisure complex going ahead, it is claimed.

Turnstone Estates announced its intention to build a new cinema and leisure complex in 2014 but has not submitted the planning application with the deadline in December.

When the initial deal was struck Turnstone was sold a lease for £1, agreed to pay £282,000 a year, business rates and costs.

It is claimed not even the £1 has been paid by Turnstone.

Southend Council, however, has paid £100,000 to relocate coaches and tens of thousands of pounds to demolish the old Rossi Factory.

The council insists it will get this money back. However there are no plans to renegotiate the £282,000 annual charge despite claims the council would now be able to achieve an income of £600,000 from the car park off Lucy Road.

Independent councillor Brian Ayling claims taxpayers could miss out on £400,000-a-year.

He said: “I believe that residents should know the truth concerning this site. Four years ago the then independent leader of the council signed off the agreement for Turnstone to develop the site, believing that it would benefit the town by some £2million in rent and business rates.

“Since taking back the administration, the subsequent Tory administration have spent millions of pounds supporting the developer and are still supporting the developer who has not yet put in a planning application and four years have been wasted.

“I do not believe the £1 fee for the lease has even been paid. The original basis of the terms of the agreement have changed significantly, the car parking revenue has increased by almost 100 per cent, the need for the planned development of non-seasonal leisure, food and drink destination will not help to rejuvenate our High Street, the loss of parking will deter visitors from coming to Southend and the terms of the earlier 2014 agreement are not beneficial to our town’s prosperity.

“I do not believe the proposals which have been intimated are in the best interests of Southend and the regeneration of the High Street.

“If the council decided to not proceed with the terms of the development, there is a tremendous advantage in the ability to provide social housing, a larger much-needed car park and facilities more suited to our tourist industry.

Paul Thompson, from the Southend Seafront Traders’ Association, said: “This is a car park that is owned by the people of Southend and it is of such strategic importance for the town.

“This deal will mean a loss of money for the taxpayer as well as the loss of a prime asset. It is a disgraceful waste of a taxpayer resource and it is time that the deal is renegotiated.”

Southend Council leader John Lamb defended the agreement.

He said: “The council engaged independent chartered surveyors Savills to work alongside us through the negotiation, appraisal and ultimate certification of the land transaction to ensure our approach was compliant with legislation and in particular delivered best consideration for the council.”

An independent review will be carried out once the deal is completed.