A HISTORIAN has called for a 17th century former hotel to be protected amid fears “historical details” could be lost if it is turned into flats.

Ambitious plans have been submitted to Southend Council to transform Princess Caroline House and parts of the Royal Hotel into 17 flats on Southend High Street.

Despite the plans vowing to protect the exterior of the buildings, historian Marion Pearce, from Southend, fears some of the characters of the buildings could be lost forever.

Residents speaking to the Echo in the High Street on Friday were also unimpressed by the plan.

Ms Pearce said: “The Royal Hotel is a superb building, it should be safeguarded.

“I am very concerned that if the building and adjoining buildings are turned into flats, some of the character of the building will be lost. Once lost, they cannot be retained.

“This is one of our last Regency buildings, when Southend was known as New Southend, it should be preserved. It has a wonderful history, I can see that being lost if it is converted to flats. We are losing too many historical buildings.”

Residents acknowledged that Southend “is in need of new homes” but worried that any luxury flats created in the former hotel would be out of reach for those most in need in the city. .

Michael Lewis, 90, of Southchurch, Southend, said: “I say retain it as it is.

“I like the design, it’s part of our history. Southend doesn’t need any more luxury flats.

“We have got a great deal more people coming in, which is definitely going to cause problems for hospitals, GPs, and schools.”

Kevin Smith, 42, from Westcliff, added: “We need more high street shops. It would give businesses the chance to thrive. There is a big homelessness problem here in Southend, so we do need more housing, but not luxury flats.”

However, Southend resident Angela Osborne, 66, believes more homes could help businesses.

She said: “It is inevitable, the whole High Street will become just flats.

“More flats for more people might bring good business and money. I would rather see something done with the building than it eventually closing down. Nobody’s going to take it over unless they can develop it.”