WORK has started on a 81- bedroom budget hotel, bar and restaurant on a key Southend seafront site.

Premier Inn hopes to be ready to open on the former gasworks site, in Eastern Esplanade, next winter, creating 65 jobs and regenerating a longderelict site.

John Bates, head of acquisitions for Premier Inn owner Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants, said: “Our contractor, Carter Lauren, has started on site on our Premier Inn and a 190-cover Brewers Fayre restaurant in Southend, regenerating the former derelict Esplanade House.

“Once completed, the hotel will help revitalise the seafront, driving significant investment and creating 65 jobs.”

The high-profile site has been a wasteland since the gasworks were demolished.

Behind blue hoardings, workmen have now started laying the foundations for the hotel.

The part four and part fivestorey building will be Premier Inn’s second seafront hotel.

It already runs the Halfway House. The new hotel will have a 69-space car park and a Brewers Fayre restaurant on the ground floor.

The derelict former Esplanade House office block has now been removed from the neighbouring site, where the Robert Leonard Group has outline planning permission for another 64-bedroom hotel, four blocks of flats and some starter homes.

Robert Leonard Group managing director Perry Gamon said yesterday progress was being made on developing the Esplanade House site.

John Lamb, Southend Council’s deputy leader, welcomed news of progress on the Premier Inn site.

He said: “It’s great news work on the Premier Inn has started.

“It’s good to see the cranes and so on and the materials starting to go in.

“It shows the confidence in the regeneration of our town and the investment being put into it to drive it forward and attract more investment.

“The word is getting out that Southend is open for business and it’s a good place to invest.”

Southend Standard:

Bid to convert arcade

AN old-established, but flagging seafront amusement arcade could soon close and be turned into a gym.

Daniel Burzotta, a member of the family which owns Italian restaurant Il Pescatore, in Queens Road, Southend, has applied for permission to convert the Wonderland arcade, in Eastern Esplanade, into a gym.

A statement submitted with the planning application says: “Over the years, Wonderland has become less and less popular as more modern, fashionable and exciting arcades developed along Marine Parade.

“This site is outside the established arcade area and has become less used.

“The cafe has remained open and attracted far more visitors than the arcade.”

The arcade, which is owned by the neighbouring Pearl Dragon Chinese restaurant, usually only opens from Easter until November.

However, it is said to be popular with computer games fans, drawn by its collection of classic video games, such as Street Fighter.

Southend Council is expected to rule on the application within the next two months.