The man behind plans to build a luxury penthouse in an iconic Southend building has spoken for the first time since his bid was rejected by a planning inspector.

Businessman Mick Norcross modified plans for the iconic building after Southend Council rejected plans for the rooftop flat saying it was out of keeping with the area.

Plans for the refurbishment of the building, which include a wine bar, health club and a restaurant, plus 18 luxury flats, with 19 parking spaces, were approved in November 2017 after the penthouse was replaced with a viewing platform.

Mr Norcross lodged an appeal with the planning inspectorate for his original plan.

However, the inspectorate has rejected the appeal.

He said: "The decision is very unfortunate, given that the reason for my appeal was based on viability, which is paramount to the refurbishment of the building.

"The viability assessment carried out was challenged by the council’s professionals but ultimately found in my favour, on the basis that the gross development value equated to enough to cover the costs of extensive structural and cosmetic repairs required on this decaying building before the conversion to apartments and commercial outlets can be undertaken to give the building another 120 years of life."

Planning inspector A J Mageean, said: “I have concluded that the proposed development would cause harm to the locally listed building and there would be less than substantial harm to the character and appearance of the conservation area.

“I have taken into consideration a range of other factors and conclude over all that the appeal proposals would represent a compromise too far in securing a future for this prominent and locally significant building.”

The inspector added the application was not in accord with Southend Council’s local plan.

Work finally began on the Leigh landmark in February.

While it is still under wraps and much of the work is being carried out inside, work underway on the former pub’s boundary wall has been praised by a Leigh town councillor.

Paul Gilson said: “It was an overdevelopment. We have planning officers to look at these things and the planning inspectorate has agreed with them.

“I have to say the work taking place so far is top quality. It is only on the boundary wall but it is top notch. If the building is done with the same quality of work it will look very good.”

An application for costs by Southend Council against Mr Norcross was refused by the inspectorate.