SOUTHEND'S £27million library has been highly commended in the prestigious National Placemaking Awards.

The Forum Southend which opened last September won the honour at a ceremony held at the British Museum in London.

The new library and learning hub in Elmer Square, Southend was highly commended in the category of Best use of arts, culture or sport in placemaking in the awards scheme run by Regeneration and Renewal Magazine.

The Forum was one of only two contenders among six finalists to be highly commended. Among other shortlisted projects were two connected with the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.

Southend Council, the University of Essex and South Essex College, who each funded the build, said in a joint statement: “We are extremely proud our unique partnership project, The Forum Southend has been nationally recognised.

“It’s a tribute to productive joint working and demonstrates the benefits we’ve gained from pooling expertise from each of the partners.

“The scheme has already made a huge impact on residents, students and visitors who are benefiting from upgraded and expanded library and learning opportunities.

"Audience members flocked to the opening series of inspiring talks in the lecture theatre, featuring internationally recognised speakers, and further exciting events are now being planned.”

To reach such a prestigious level, finalists needed to demonstrate how they were using  arts, culture or sport to improve the physical or environmental quality of a place or the economic or social well-being of a community.

The library is also new home for the Focal Point Art Gallery and eaching and learning facilities including a 200-seat lecture theatre.