PENGUINS, seals and crocodiles could soon be coming to Southend seafront, as Sealife Adventure plans to double in size.
The major family attraction, on Eastern Esplanade, wants to build an extension half the size of a football pitch over an informal staff car park and former crazy golf course to the east, to house the new creatures.
Owner the Stockvale Group, which also operates seafront attractions Adventure Island, Sands restaurant and the Three Shells kiosk, hope the exotic additions will boost last year’s 156,000 visitor numbers by a third.
Paul Thompson, chairman of Southend Seafront Traders’ Association, said: “It sounds fantastic.
“Continued investment from a private entrepreneur can only be good.
“It will increase the attraction for visitors to come to Southend.
“The Sealife Adventure is popular. If it brings in penguins and seals it will be fantastic.”
The extension, which would contain five pools, is part of a major revamp of the 21-year-old centre, which also includes masking its pitched roofs with a new rainbow-coloured covering.
There would be a penguin pool, seal pool, crocodile enclosure, large fish tank and another enclosure for creatures as yet unspecified.
Containers for meerkats and leafcutter ants and a research room for Essex University students are also included in the plans.
The Stockvale Group believes the extension could increase the number of jobs from 30 to 50, including some highly-skilled conservation jobs, and attract more visitors out of season.
Emma Cooney, Southend Council’s acting group manager for economy and tourism, said: “From an economic viewpoint, the proposed extension would present a range of opportunities for both the borough and its residents.
“Any positive initiatives aimed at generating additional visitors throughout the year and the associated benefits such activity provides has got to be good for the town.”