£14m earmarked for visitor attraction and new trains on Southend Pier

Published Wednesday, 9th January 2019

Southend pier

The council’s cabinet is set to consider investing nearly £14m to build a new visitor attraction and restaurant on the world’s longest pier and replace its ageing train service.

As part of its draft budget for 2019/20, councillors will consider whether to set aside £10.5m to design and build a new “pavilion” on an area of the pier previously occupied by a bowling alley, which was destroyed by fire in 1995.

If the budget is approved, the funding would enable work to start on designing the pavilion itself and what it contains. Once this has been completed it would then be presented for public consultation. Subject to planning permission, this could then see construction taking place between 2020 and 2022.

Cabinet will also consider setting aside a further £3.25m to replace the pier trains, which were introduced in 1986 with an expected 20-year lifespan.

The draft budget report states that replacement parts for the trains will soon be impossible to replace and a replacement system is required. The improvement to the system with replacement trains will enhance the visitor offer and will support growth in overall visitor numbers as well as supporting capital investment in the redevelopment of the Pier Pavilion Deck.

This funding is on top of £15m already allocated in the capital programme from 2018/19 to 2021/22 that is needed for day to day improvements and repairs such as regular condition works, and timber and structural works.

Cllr James Courtenay, cabinet member for growth, said: “What we will be considering is a major investment to reinvigorate Southend Pier, which is undoubtedly the jewel in the borough’s crown and a source of pride and joy for many local people and visitors.

“Since the last major pier fire, visitor numbers have steadily increased with record numbers attending this year. However, I know local people love the pier, they want there to be more for visitors to do on it and they want to see it be a worthy centrepiece of our beautiful seafront.

“Our proposed budget sees a new visitor centre and restaurant on the bowling deck, along with a new transport system, which would be a major draw for visitors and increase the pride residents have in our pier.

“The trains are a really enjoyable part of a trip out on the pier, with lots of people choosing to ‘walk and ride’ or even catch the train both ways. I know it is an important part of the pier experience so we feel a vital investment in ensuring we continue to break visitor record numbers year-on-year.”

The draft budget will be considered by the council’s cabinet next week (Thursday 17 January), consulted on and go through the council’s scrutiny committees, with the final budget to be discussed and approved at Full Council on Thursday 21 February 2019.

The funding being considered by the Council is in addition to £186,000 already committed to extending the pier entrance into a former arcade this spring, providing extra retail space and an improved welcome for visitors. Work also continues on replacing sun shelters and toilets on the pier.

Southend pier has just enjoyed its busiest year since records begun in 2005.