Southend Council’s planning officers have recommended plans for the a £50m leisure complex is granted planning permission ahead of a meeting next week.

The controversial development is due to be built on the Seaway Car Park, in Lucy Road, and will include an IMAX Cinema, an 80-bed hotel, and a climbing wall.

The plans from Turnstone Estates are due to be discussed at a special development control meeting to focus entirely on whether the plans should go ahead.

In council documents published ahead of the meeting, members of the planning team have recommended that it is granted planning permission.

It is noted that: “The proposals will deliver a new leisure destination in Southend Central Area, transforming a site currently used as a car park to create a vibrant focus for leisure activity in the heart of the town.”

“It offers bespoke facilities not found elsewhere within the Borough, that will add to the leisure attraction of Southend.

"Additionally, it will increase the capacity, range and quality of available visitor accommodation at this strategically important location, thereby encouraging more overnight and longer stays within the town.”

Critics of the scheme have warned that the new facilities could put other businesses in the surrounding area in danger, including the Odeon Cinema on London Road. They also fear a reduction in parking spaces from 661 to 555 will harm seafront businesses and lead to more congestion at the seafront.

The report acknowledges there are concerns about the plans but adds “an appreciation of the extent of demand for the proposed facilities, and the distinct nature of what is proposed compared to existing businesses, should reduce the risk of any such negative economic impacts materialising”.

It further adds: “It is not considered that the transport, traffic and parking impacts of a development of the nature proposed would be of such magnitude, extent or complexity that they would have a significant impact on the environment.”

The deputy leader of the council Councillor Ron Woodley said: “This is now for the development control committee to assess on its merits and on planning principals only. It does not matter whether they like it or not, it only matters that it meets planning standard and if it does, they should follow the recommendations.”

Speaking of claims that parking will not have a “significant” impact on the environment, Tory leader Councillor Tony Cox said that whoever made the claim is “living in cuckoo land”.

He said: “How can you reduce 100 odd spaces and not have a significant impact? You are going to have a backup of people trying to find spaces.”

He added: “This is going to be one of a few developments that is going to have a profound impact on this town for the next 60 or 70 years.”

What the report says about the benefits for Southend

“The regeneration of this previously developed, centrally located site for a range of appropriate new uses that will positively contribute towards Southend’s status as a leisure and tourist destination represents a key benefit of the project and one that one that should carry significant weight in the planning balance.

“From an economic perspective, through job creation, capital expenditure, linked trip expenditure, and increased visitor expenditure, Southend will receive an economic benefit as a result of the implementation of the development.

“Substantive new job creation and the provision of a new major leisure and visitor attraction in the centre of Southend will represent a significant boost for the local economy, particularly given the nature of evidenced demand and current supply.”

It adds: “The application will create a new landmark building at the site in a manner that allows the development to sit comfortably within its setting. In contrast to the existing car park that detracts from the prevailing streetscene, the new buildings proposed will add interest to this important location, creating a contemporary feature that will add positively to the identity of Southend.”

What the report says about the disadvantages for Southend

“The proposals will result in harmful effects on the townscape of the site and its surroundings, impacting on a number of key views, albeit this impact is limited. With maturing landscaping over time, this impact is likely to reduce, but despite this, it must be the case that this matter is seen as a disbenefit of the scheme, weighing moderately against the development proposal.

“The lack of coach parking within the new parking areas at the site is again a disbenefit of the project. In this instance, however, with the lack of any existing facilities at Seaways, and the role of the Gas Works site, this matter is not considered to contribute with anything more, no real weight should be given to the loss of coach parking on site because a) there is none there now and b) you have provision for drop off and pick up and off site provision elsewhere albeit not on a permanent basis.

It adds: “It is very clear, therefore, that any assessment of the overall planning balance of the merits of the proposals weighs heavily in favour of the development with the planning benefits of the proposals far outweighing the limited harm identified.”