A NEW multi-million pound hospice looks likely to join homes on the Ekco site, despite negotiators still reportedly being hundreds of thousands of pounds apart.

Havens is negotiating with Bellway Homes over part of the site.

Talks have been delayed as Bellway believed the charity should up its contribution to buy the site from landowner Aviva by as much as £400,000. However, it’s understood an agreement is expected by the summer.

The hospice plan would replace controversial proposals over siting a new £15million facility on green belt land in Leigh.

Havens has been trying to build a new hospice for years.

Fair Havens hospice, in Second Avenue, Chalkwell, is not suitable as it does not have a lift, yet most of its bedrooms are upstairs and there is a need for more beds.

A fighting fund was set up in 2010 with £2million pledged by supporters specifically for the project.

No funds were diverted from patient care, it was said.

Nigel Holdcroft, leader of Southend Council, said: “While I do not know the current position with the negotiations between Bellway and Havens, I hope that they are able to finalise an agreement and submit an appropriate planning application.”

The new adult hospice, which would create an additional 90 paid and voluntary roles, would have significantly larger day care and treatment facilities than the current Fair Havens hospice in Second Avenue, Chalkwell.

It would still have 16 bedrooms and be surrounded by landscaped gardens to create a therapeutic environment, as was planned for the land off Belton Way West, although the gardens have had to be scaled back.

The rooms, which are likely to have balconies, may look out over the Ecko Sports Ground.

The Echo understands Havens had hoped the hospice would overlook Priory Park, opposite, but no space may be available.

The council’s town clerk called in each party in a bid to move to bring the development forward and council sources are now hopeful agreement can be reached.

Planners expect the parties, who have been locked in discussions since June, to submit a joint planning application by May or June at the latest.

A spokeswoman for Havens Hospices said: “Discussions and negotiations are ongoing.”

A Southend Council spokesman said: “Council officers have met with representatives of Bellway Homes and Havens Hospice to consider future options for the Ecko site.”

Meanwhile, Mike King, chairman of Save Our Greenbelt, which fought the plan for a hospice off Belton Way West, said: “It’s like the end of a marathon race.

They are now in the last 100 yards. When they pass the finishing line and it’s signed and sealed we will break open the champagne.”