DEVELOPERS behind plans to transform Southend’s former Empire Theatre into a block of plush flats with shops on the ground floor have lodged an appeal against the decision to veto the proposals.

Initial plans to clear the site, on Alexandra Street, and build a five-storey block of 22 flats were approved by Southend Council in February, but an updated plan to create 27 homes on the site were later refused.

At the time, Southend Council blocked the plans over concerns it would be overdevelopment in the nearby Clifftown Conservation Area.

The developer called a halt to the work on the site, which was once the ABC cinema, and has now lodged an appeal.

If the appeal is upheld, it could prove costly for Southend Council.

Mike Gray, managing director of Dedman Gray who will be managing the sale of the flats, said: “Given that this development would play a big part in kick-starting the regeneration of mixed schemes in the town centre, it was particularly disappointing for this not to be approved.

“The new development with this additional floor in my opinion is not much taller than the original Empire Theatre and would provide some excellent accommodation which is exactly what the town centre needs.”

When rejecting the updated plans, Southend Council planning officers said the scale of the building would “harm the character and appearance of the site” and the street scene.

Mr Gray added: “With the consent granted, including the extra floor, this really would deliver the combination of quality apartments and good commercial space linking Alexandra Street and Clarence Road together.”

A council spokesperson said: “The appeal has only just submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. This council will defend its case for the appeal in accordance with the relevant legislation and procedures.

“Details of those are explained on the Government’s website. It would not be appropriate for the council to speculate about potential outcomes.”

Rejecting the proposal, planning officers said “contrast significantly with the scale of surrounding buildings”.

They added; “This would harm the character and appearance of the site, the street scene and the wider area.”