This summer I have had all four children home.
The eldest is back from university until October, the middle two are on school holidays and the baby and I remained joined at the hip.

Finding activities for us all to do can be hard work.

Trying to keep the kids occupied without breaking the bank constantly tests any parent’s resourcefulness and several of the mums I’ve become friendly with commented on what a pity it is that Leigh has no family friendly pubs where both older and younger generations can enjoy a meal and a drink in a nice beer garden which is fun for children to play in…

Like many other people, I don’t want to have to take my kids into a probably smoky pub because let’s face it –even without pervading tobacco smoke, pubs are VERY boring for kids.

I always feel deeply uncomfortable when I see tots parked on seats with absolutely nothing to do except eat crisps, drink fizzy drinks and watch their parents enjoy themselves.

And whilst is it lovely in the old town, the same problem remains. Nothing is geared towards families and children have no option but to sit at the benches (rather dull after a few minutes for even the most beautifully behaved youngster) or play in the car parks or surrounding roads which is hardly suitable or safe.

Next time you decide to go for a pleasant family Sunday lunch in a Leigh on Sea pub …don’t bother. Families are invisible apparently.

It’s absolutely ludicrous that among the dozens of drinking establishments in our town, not one has a beer garden, yet planning permission for yet more trendy wine bars seems a dead cert.

Hotel needed!

And speaking of crazy planning permission – another question I’d like to ask is why Leigh hasn’t got a decent, good quality hotel?

What hope does the town have of attracting tourism without a contemporary, stylish place to stay?

We have a gorgeous town which could easily entertain both couples, families and single parties for mini breaks or longer stays, but there is absolutely no suitable hotel accommodation.

The perfect location for such a hotel, would be the currently dilapidated old Bell Hotel.

It’s on an ideal site with fabulous views, near the old town, beach and fishing pubs and a stones throw from the buzz and shops of the Broadway.

I took a look around this lovely old building last week and wanted to learn more of its background so I contacted Essex historian and author Ian Yearsley, who told me that:

“The building in question was called the Bell Hotel. Leigh railway station used to be behind the building (it was moved to its current site in 1933-4), so was probably built around the time of the arrival of the railway which opened in 1856.

"Similar hotel arrangements took place at other stations in the borough, e.g. at Southend Central (Railway Hotel) and Prittlewell (also Railway Hotel).

"There was a level crossing where the bridge is near the Smack and this would have been a very busy place at the time, with much passing trade.

"The Bell is remembered in name at least by Bell Wharf, which if memory serves me correctly was partly built with rubble from an earlier public house of the same name on or near the same site.”

I also asked Leigh Town Council for any information about its possible future and was informed that planning permission to turn it into flats had recently been refused. Hurrah – but for how long?

Unfortunately, I fear it’s only a question of time before the inevitable occurs and permission is granted. Then this wonderful building will become the latest casualty of a property entrepreneur.