AMBITIOUS plans to create 557 homes in one of Southend’s most prominent buildings could now move ahead “quite quickly,” say council bosses.

The Comer Group is set to transform Alexander House, at the junction of Victoria Avenue, Queensway and Baxter Avenue.

The developer, which is known for transforming historic landmark buildings, had applied to the council for “screening opinion” to determine whether an environmental impact assessment was needed.

This comes ahead of the firm submitting a full planning application for the former HMRC office block.

The ground floor of the 16-storey block is earmarked for commercial use, with the remaining offices turned into flats.

It is the latest application for the building.

Comer Homes unveiled plans for the block after receiving prior approval from Southend Council to convert the block into 334 one and two-bedroom apartments in 2021.

David Garston, Tory councillor responsible for housing and planning, previously welcomed the application - but raised concerns about parking. He said a close eye would be kept on the size of the apartments, since their number had increased by more than two thirds, from 334 homes to 557.

The scheme could move ahead quite quickly now.

Mr Garston said: “If they don’t need and environmental impact assessment, that’s one hurdle they don’t have to worry about.

“I welcome its moving ahead but obviously it has to go through the usual evaluation and car parking is something that was a concern. Not so much that it’s only one per two flats because it’s very central but how they are going to organise that.”

A report by planning officers found there would be “no likely significant effects” on the environment if the plans went ahead.

Therefore it was ruled the application could be appropriately assessed using standard documents.

Comer Homes is behind large, prestigious developments in London, Hertfordshire, Dorset and throughout the south east.

These include a private gated development at the 100-acre Royal Connaught Park in Bushey.

Victoria Avenue has seen the overhaul of several tower blocks, including Baryta House, Heath House, Carby House and Victoria Central.