A £50MILLION plan to transform a seafront car park into a major new leisure attraction with an 11-screen cinema has finally been approved by the Government after years of wrangling.

The plans for the Seaway car park off Lucy Road, Southend, which will see the site developed into a hotel, bowling alley and restaurants, has been in the pipeline for around six years.

But it faced a major set back when councillors voted to delay making a decision on planning after parking concerns.

Rather than review their original application to address them, developer Turnstone Estates lodged an appeal with the Government’s Planning Inspectorate and the council’s decision has now been overturned - giving Turnstone the green light.

The project will include an 11-screen IMAX Empire Cinema, a 20-lane Hollywood Bowl, an 80-bed Travelodge Hotel, restaurants, a new public square and 555 car parking spaces in a new multi-storey building.

The planning decision made by the Planning Inspectorate addressed concerns about a reduction in parking spaces from the current 661 to just 555.

Southend council leader Ian Gilbert welcomed the decision, calling it a “key part” of the council’s economic recovery in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: “I am delighted to hear the news of a positive decision from the secretary of state on the Seaway Leisure development.

“This has been a long time coming, and as a key Southend 2050 project we welcome the development and investment which will be a key part in our local economic recovery.

“The £50 million investment into Southend and the central seafront area will significantly improve and modernise Southend’s leisure and hospitality offer for residents and visitors alike.

“The new jobs and wider economic benefits created by the development will boost the town’s economy at a time when it will be most needed.”

The decision was also welcomed by Tim Deacon, director at Turnstone Estates, who insisted his company is “committed as ever” to the plans, despite the economic impact of the pandemic.

He said: “We are as committed as ever to delivering the Seaway Leisure scheme, which still meets the needs of Southend in a post-Covid world, so that local residents can have a first-class leisure attraction they can enjoy all year round.”