BUILDERS could start work on a multi-million pound development of shops, restaurants and a 13-storey block of flats on a prime Southend seafront site next year.

Developer the Inner London Group hopes to submit long-awaited full plans for the Marine Plaza development on a derelict site opposite the Kursaal by the end of this year, the Echo can reveal.

Work to replace derelict former play area Funland, the Foresters Arms pub and a temporary car park with 290 flats and 3,000sq m of commercial space could start within six months of permission being granted.

Seafront traders and senior councillors have welcomed the scheme, which they hope will boost seafront regeneration.

Inner London Group director George Fentiman said: “It may be this size of development will push forward the rest of the seafront.

“It’s a fantastic development and a fantastic scheme.”

The developer has been holding talks with council planners for more than two years.

It has now formally asked the council what information it should include in a report on the environmental impact of the development, required with the planning application due to the size of the 2.7-acre site.

As well as a 13-storey block of flats, the developer wants to build shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, a takeaway, offices and an amusement arcade. The site is at the corner of Marine Parade and Southchurch Avenue.

The Inner London Group paid £2.25million for the site in 2010.

The Echo understands the firm is still negotiating with an elderly lady over buying the last of a row of four terraced houses at the north-eastern corner of the plot in Southchurch Avenue, but it is confident a deal will be reached.

A separate stumbling block presented by the Happidrome amusement arcade at the southwestern corner has been avoided, by no longer including it in the redevelopment plans.

Mr Fentiman said: “We are ready to build. If we had planning permission a year ago, we would be building now.

“We hope to put the application in this year and work could start within six months. It will be in 2015.”