A NEW amphitheatre is set to host its first performances at the end of Southend Pier this summer.

Southend Council plans to finally build the much-delayed open-air performance area outside the Royal Pavilion at the pierhead ready for the start of the summer season.

The structure is part of a pier development scheme costing almost £1million planned by the council this year.

Mark Murphy, the council’s group manager for property regeneration and strategic projects, said: “This project is another example of the council’s continued commitment to invest in Southend’s iconic pier, which is an internationally renowned attraction for residents and visitors.”

Theatre groups will be able to use the amphitheatre to entertain crowds during summer months.

The final design of the amphitheatre is yet to be decided, but it is expected to include open-air seating for about 100 people.

The council is looking for a firm to design and build the structure.

Mr Murphy said: “The amphitheatre has always been proposed as an open-air performance space, so there would not be covered seating for the audience, but we anticipate it would be able to accommodate around 100 people.

“While we have a base design, the details of this may change depending on the accepted project submitted by the firm winning the tender.”

An amphitheatre was included in the original plans for the redesign of the end of the pier, which also included the Royal Pavilion, by Swedish firm White Arkitekter, back in 2009.

The £3million pavilion, at first known as Southend Cultural Centre, was installed at the pierhead to much fanfare and hosted its first performances in the summer of 2012.

The amphitheatre, at first planned to include covered seating, was expected to be finished by March last year, but never appeared.

The Echo understands the project was delayed after the council failed to secure a sufficient level of funding and the design had to be scaled back.

The authority has set aside £943,000 for “pier infrastructure and development” in the coming year, which also includes work to shore up the foundations of the area around the lifeboat station.

Another £500,000 is on the books for 2015/16. Both amounts have already been agreed by the council.