THE main contractor behind a project for a ten-screen cinema in Basildon has gone into administration.

Simons Construction was working on the huge development in East Square set to house the Empire Cinema and six new restaurants.

Demolition work begun at the start of the month after the £25 million contract was awarded in March.

However, Simons Group, the firm behind Simons Construction, fell into administration on Tuesday.

Squibb Demolition was sub-contracted by Simons to demolish the existing site and carry out other preparatory works. The firm has now been stood down.

Gavin Callaghan, the leader of Basildon Council, is staying positive. He assured residents the council was working to make sure the project will not be significantly delayed.

He said: “I was of course very disappointed to hear the news about the Simons Group. We have responded immediately by taking a number of steps to ensure that the project for a cinema-led regeneration of Basildon’s East Square remains on track.

“First, we have acted to ensure the site, where demolition and preparatory works are taking place, is safe and secure.

“Second, we are working hard to find a speedy solution so that this preparatory work can continue as soon as is practicable.

“Third, we are urgently exploring options available to us so we can secure the services of a replacement contractor and minimise any delays to the project.

“That includes talking to the administrators appointed for Simons about the assistance they have offered.”

Lincoln-based Simons Group was established in 1944, and its administration puts 125 jobs at risk.

Construction work was due to begin in the spring of 2020 to be completed in early 2021, with the project dating back to 2014 when it was first discussed.

The cinema was set to be the largest cinema screen outside of Leicester Square, London.

Mr Callaghan added: “We are doing all we can to avoid any serious disruption to this timeline.

“Finally, we will take every step to protect the public spend on this project and ensure it continues to provide excellent value for money.

“The council remains absolutely committed to this project, which is key to our plans for the long-term regeneration of Basildon town centre.”