EMPTY office space above a new Mexican restaurant on Southend High Street will be turned into flats after plans were given the green light.

Southend Council has approved plans to create six flats above the Plan Burrito restaurant in the former Warren James jewellers.

The building sits opposite the former Miss Selfridge store where businessman Aras Ali has already created nine flats and he believes the future success of the High Street depends on more homes being created to help boost business.

Mr Ali, a director for Southend’s Business Improvement District, has claimed the future success of the High Street relies on empty office and storage space above shops being converted to help bring more people to the city centre.

The plans will see the creation of six flats, including four one-bed homes, one two-bed and one three-bed flat, while the building’s dome roof will be retained.

Mr Ali said: “This will bring new people to the High Street and bring more footfall to the area.

“The office space above is empty right now, it hasn’t been used like this before and it is full of pigeons and other mess.

“The windows must be sorted out and the birds removed to get it into a better condition and then it will be ready to develop.”

Previous plans to convert the office space, which has stood empty since 2020, were rejected by Southend Council in 2021.

“You cannot use these locations for commercial reasons really, people don’t like the stairs, so I think turning this and similar spaces into flats is a good plan and a good opportunity for the high street.

“Southend Business Improvement District are taking care of the High Street, and this is one way to do that and show people the future of the High Street and these empty spaces,” he said.

Mr Ali added that the ground space will also be converted, “as it is a little storage area that isn’t part of the main business, meaning the business won’t be affected by plans.”

Officers have given the plans conditional approval.