WORK is underway, at last, to prepare for the demolition of a once iconic Southend pub.

Preliminary work to stabilise the site around the fire-hit Esplanade pub is now being carried out by developers Beyond the Box.

While there is little to see from Western Esplanade, behind the hoardings contractors are carrying out vital preparation work to its unstable surrounding cliffs.

Beyond the Box managing director James Struth said: “It really is very technical boring at the moment, but very important.

“The work has started, just very slowly and carefully. It will soon speed up and will then be flat out.

“Construction has started using remotely operated vehicles because the site is too dangerous to enter. As soon as the site is safe and secure full demolition will commence.

“It should start in about two weeks and last for up to eight weeks.”

A top class restaurant is planned within the redevelopment, along with 51 flats.

Investigations undertaken on the site ahead of a planning application note the instability of cliffs to the north of the site, near a conservation area.

Inspectors said: “Any proposals involving excavation works would need to go through a stringent structural assessment.”

The former pub had become a target for vandals, with firefighters continually called to extinguish fires set by arsonists. The last blaze, on December 22, completely destroyed the building, leaving it in a dangerous condition.

Kevin Robinson, councillor responsible for business, culture and tourism, welcomed the start of work onsite. He said: “We will be pleased to see what was left of that once great building go. Seafront traders have been asking for it to happen and when you walk down the seafront you hear people complain about it.

“It will be good to clear it away and stabilise the cliffs.”

Mr Robinson also raised concerns about the now empty Foresters Arms on the Marine Plaza site, which has become the latest target for vandals.

He added: “We need to look at at the other sites like the Foresters Arms. We know these empty sites are prime targets for vandals and concerns have been raised.

“The seafront is the front door to Southend.”