PLANS for a £1million artificial lagoon on Southend seafront could be in jeopardy after a proposed revamp of Sealife Adventure was delayed.
Sealife Adventure owner the Stockvale Group was due to pump £100,000 into a huge treelined tidal pool at Three Shells Beach, but the Echo understands the firm has threatened to pull the plug after Southend Council failed to approve plans to extend the Sealife Centre, in Eastern Esplanade.
The Government has signed off £850,000 of taxpayers’ cash for the lagoon scheme, put forward by Stockvale, but the firm is angry the Sealife plans were deferred.
Ironically, Southend Council’s planning committee had approved the lagoon, despite fears its 400ft-long steel and rock wall could block the Alexandra Yacht Club next door, but deferred the Sealife extension over concerns the design would spoil the area.
Paul Thompson, chairman of Southend Seafront Traders’ Association, said: “It’s a shame the council couldn’t agree all of the applications, as they were all good for the town and the seafront. I’m not sure why the Sealife plan was deferred.
“It means we are going to miss out on two big attractions. It would be fantastic for the town to have both in place for the start of next year.”
The Sealife extension would house crocodiles, penguins, seals and meerkats, but residents of 19th century former fishermen’s cottages opposite said the extension, which would double the size of Sealife Adventure, would look like an industrial building.
Councillors also raised concerns about the “rainbow” cladding, which appears to change colour as the angle of light changes.
David Norman, chairman of the cross-party group which decides planning applications, said: “With a building of this size and scale, the question of external cladding is important in any planning judgment.
“The cladding is a legitimate planning judgment the planning committee must take into account.
“The committee did what it is constitutionally empowered to do.”
Julian Ware-Lane, Labour councillor for Milton, claimed the lagoon would turn Southend into a “plastic Marbella”.
He said: “I’m delighted the lagoon is scuppered, but I would rather it was scuppered by the will of the council, rather than the petulance of a developer.
“It sounds as if Stockvale is saying ‘unless you give us everything, we aren’t going to give you anything’.
“It smacks of trying to hold the council to ransom.”
The Stockvale Group declined to comment.