DEMOLITION work is set to start on the Bell Hotel tomorrow after the roof of the landmark Leigh building caved in.

Officials from Southend Council visited the site yesterday morning to assess the safety following the collapse on Tuesday afternoon.

Workmen have been renovating the long-empty landmark and replacing it with flats.

A council spokesman said: “The rear wall has collapsed entirely and they have deemed it not possible to support the roof structure. Further, the weight of the roof is causing the remaining walls to bulge.

“Building officers are recommending the roof be removed as soon as possible and the remaining walls be demolished.

“This is expected to take around four days, with a provisional start date of tomorrow.”

An investigation is under wau into the cause of the collapse and the council’s planning team is now in talks with the owners over the future of the site.

A resident described the collapse as sounding like “a bomb had gone off” as he witnessed a builder run out of the building as the back caved in.

A loud noise, described as similar to the sound of an earthquake, was heard from the site, in Old Leigh, shortly after 3pm on Tuesday as the back of the former hotel collapsed.

Michael Dixon, 73, of New Road, Leigh, was left shocked as he walked opposite the building when it collapsed and was concerned for the safety of builders seen running out.

He added: “We were just passing when it happened. We saw a builder run out across the road. We had just come out of the shops. It was a horrendous noise, it sounded like a bomb had gone off.

“I was worried straight away, I thought someone was trapped and thought God I hope no-one is injured.

“I was with my wife, we had been shopping. We were concerned because people were running about, one builder ran out and went on his phone.”

The builders, Hutton Construction, have been unavailable for comment.

The owner of the building Ben Levy has not been available for comment.

The Health and Safety Executive is aware of this incident initial inquiries are under way.


THE Bell Hotel, has been empty for two decades and was finally being redeveloped into apartments.

Workmen were renovating the hotel, and constructing three blocks at Bell Sands, with five apartments available for between £249,995 and £899,995.

The redevelopment finally got under way after nine years of planning issues for developers Robin Levy and son Ben and work begun in October 2014.

The hotel itself, which is structurally sound, but in a state of disrepair, was planned to form one part of the multi-million pound Bell Sands flats development – just a stone’s throw from Leigh’s historic Old Town.

The plan included three four-storey blocks to be built behind it, on the edge of the railway line, in a pastel beach hut style, with each named after one of Old Leigh’s four wharfs.

The entire development was expected to be completed by December 2015.

It was supposed to offer large luxurious flats with views of the Thames Estuary and the beach at Bell Wharf.

The developers had planned to put a new roof on, new floors, balconies with wrought iron railings and were going to build a new floor for a basement flat.

Carole Mulroney, Southend councilor representing Leigh, said: “Obviously it’s a great shame because the development was marching ahead and the biggest thing of it is that most of us want the Bell restored.

“That bit is in the conservation area.

“The story of the Bell has been going on for years. It’s about restoring the Bell, it’s been derelict for a long time but it’s important due to the position it is in.

“A lot of people want to see not just the Bell restored but the whole run of it down that area. It’s a very important gateway into the Old Town in that area. It’s going to take some work to do whatever needs doing.”

Richard Herbert, Chairman of Leigh Town Council, said: “It’s a great shame after all the effort and work that has gone into that building.

“We have all got our fingers crossed that it can be restored. With all the work that has gone into it, it is quite a shame that something like that has happened.”

Four of the five apartments had been reserved by local people, according to the estate agent.


THE road outside the Bell Hotel will remain closed until Monday evening at the earliest, council officials say.

Leigh Hill, Leigh Park Road and New Road were all closed to traffic yesterday and it is not clear when they will re-open.

All vehicles apart from residents will be prohibited from entering Leigh Hill and New Road from the junction of Cliff Parade/Leigh Hill to the junction of Hadleigh Road.

Drivers cannot enter Leigh Park road from its junction with Hadleigh Road to its junction with Leigh Hill. Access is for residents only.

Southend councillor for Leigh, Carole Mulroney, said: “I think it will be a little while before it is all sorted out. We need to make sure residents have access. The biggest priority is keeping people safe.”

Work continued to be done on some flats a couple of doors away on Leigh Hill, despite the building being cordoned off.


BUSINESSES in in Leigh Old Town were worried about access problems but relieved no one was hurt.

Gordon Parkhill, volunteer at the Heritage Centre, in Old Leigh, said: “The main problem now is getting access to the old town. Wheather it will affect us I don’t know. The people who might be affected is anyone trying to come down Leigh Broadway.

“You are not allowed anywhere near the site.

“Obviously no they’ve started work on it everybody wants to see it finished as it’s been an eyesore for so many years.”

Richard Herbert, chairman of Leigh Town Council, said he was still in shock at the whole incident.

“We are thankful that no-one was hurt. A friend of mine was literally walking past when it collapsed.
“I don’t know that anybody knows if it’s safe, it has only just happened.

“It could so easily have been a disaster. Everybody is very concerned with what’s going to happen next obviously.”


The Echo would like to make it clear that Cherry Red Contractors are not linked to the development at the Bell Hotel in any way. Yesterday’s picture from the scene had a picture of the company’s van in it. Cherry Red are, in fact, contractors undertaking work on three cottages at 30 to 34, Leigh Hill and are not working on the Bell Hotel at all.