THE Mayor of Southend has said the seafront’s former gas works site could be freed up for housing if the Marine Plaza land becomes a car park.

Ron Woodley said the gas works car park, which has previously been marked as a possible future residential development site, could be used for much needed homes.

Speaking after it was revealed the Marine Plaza site was up for sale, he said: “I’d like to see the site completed. There is planning permission already for 282 flats with commercial properties under it.

“Whatever other use as it goes forward, it will have to go through planning permission. I don’t see a need for another car park because we’ve got the Esplanade car park on the old gas works site.

“The planning permission for a car park was only temporary but if it turns out they put it in as a car park that means the old gas works site could be converted into apartments.”

Collapse - how the £100million development would have lookedCollapse - how the £100million development would have looked (Image: Inner London Group)

Mr Woodley has been outspoken about developers who are allowed to “land bank” and sit on schemes for years after gaining planning permission. He called on the government to introduce a law which would see developers paying the council tax on homes they have failed to build.

He added: “In some ways I’m glad Inner London Group are no longer involved. They’ve had it long enough. After two years, if no meaningful development takes place we should be entitled to charge council tax or business rates.

“We should now wait for the sale to go through and decide through development control what planning applications might come through. It’s a prime location. There is a need for high quality, good value flats.

“Something needed to be happening there. It’s a large site with plenty of opportunity.”

Daniel Cowan, leader of the council, said: “There is an option to use part of the site for parking but we need to see what happens with the sale. The important thing is the site isn’t left unused in the long-term and we look forward to seeing what could come forward.”

Paul Thompson, of the Seafront Traders’ Association, added: “It’s good they are clearing it. It shows something is possibly going to happen there. I just hope the site can be brought back into use in whatever form. We’ll have to wait and see.”