SOUTHEND seafront is to undergo a £1.25million revamp to attract more tourists and boost the economy.
The Government has announced a huge cash investment to fund an artificial lagoon by the Three Shells Beach for young bathers and water sports enthusiasts to use safely when the tide is out. The lagoon will cover an area which is approximately 250ft by 250ft, equivalent to 5,843sq m.
Fishermen and yachtsmen will also get new changing facilities at Bell Wharf, Leigh, new buoys will help keep kitesurfers at East Beach, Shoebury, safe and Southend Maritime Festival, launched last year, will be turned into a major event.
The ambitious plans will create eight jobs directly, but a projected increase in Southend’s six million annual visitors is expected to lead to 126 other new roles.
Derek Jarvis, Southend councillor responsible for culture and tourism, said: “I’m certain the funding will allow us to put some real energy and drive behind our ambitious plans for making Southend one of the country’s must-see places to visit.
“This is an excellent opportunity to attract more staying visitors to our town, especially out of season, and I’m looking forward to seeing more permanent job opportunities being created.”
The Echo revealed the Stockvale Group’s proposals for a tree-lined tidal pool at Three Shells Beach, where it owns the Sands restaurant and Three Shells Beach Cafe, in November.
Southend Council plans to use £850,000 of the Coastal Communities Fund to pay for the pool, which would be created by building a 120m long steel, rock and boulder wall on the foreshore.
The Stockvale Group, which also owns Adventure Island and Sealife Adventure, has offered £100,000 towards the scheme.
The windfall will also pay new equipment at the Southend Marine Activities Centre, in Eastern Esplanade, and enable youngsters using the centre to use the lagoon, which will be filled naturally as the tide comes in.
Paul Thompson, chairman of Southend Seafront Traders’ Association, said: “Southend is a seaside town, but it’s not only the seafront that will benefit.
“The High Street will benefit and it will generate money for the council through parking.
“The seafront generates jobs and is vital to the town’s economy.”
Deputy council leader John Lamb said: “The residents will benefit as well as the visitors.
“It’s a wonderful achievement and it shows we are working in partnership to help private investors.”
£40K FACELIFT FOR LEIGH TOILETS
NEW changing facilities at the heart of Old Leigh should help to attract more seafarers.
Showers and space for yachtsmen, fishermen and bathers to change will be added to the toilet block on Bell Wharf, Old Leigh, in a £40,000 revamp designed to attract more boat-users to the historic fishing village.
The new facilities will be available for everyone to use, but people will have to pay.
Paul Gilson, joint chairman of Leigh and Southend Fishermen’s Association, who first suggested the idea, said: “I’m pleased to see it’s happening.
“It’s got to be good, as long as everybody gains.”
The toilet block on Bell Wharf and outside shower at the beach are well-used as the area is packed with bathers on sunny summer days.
But Southend Council hopes the new facilities will make the area more attractive to yachtsmen and fishermen.
Peter Wexham, Lib Dem councillor for Leigh, who is a retired fisherman, said: “We need facilities for people to use, whether they are fishermen unloading their boats, lorry drivers who have come down from Kings Lynn or people visiting on a yacht from Holland.”
Caroline Parker, chairman of Leigh Town Council, said: “It’s excellent news.
“It’s not before time.”
Mr Gilson said better parking facilities in the Old Town would also help boost tourism in Leigh.
The fisherman suggested turning land behind cockle sheds in High Street into parking on weekends, when the area is unused.
OPPONENTS WORRIED BY PROPOSALS
SAILORS, sea cadets and naturalists are concerned about the lagoon, which is yet to get the green light.
Southend Council, which will rule whether the huge development can go ahead next month, has received 33 letters objecting to the plan.
The Alexandra Yacht Club, which has about 200 members, fears the lagoon would block its slipway, which is next to Three Shells Beach, closing the club after 140 years.
Southend Sea Scouts, which has 60 members, also uses the slipway and has objected. Natural England, a public body charged with protecting the natural environment, has warned the rocks and boulders are likely to affect the foreshore, which is a site of special scientific interest.
The Stockvale Group declined to comment, but took to Facebook to deny the lagoon would endanger the yacht club. A spokesman said: “We’ve heard some of you are concerned the lagoon will prevent the slipway being used. We can assure you this is not going to happen.”
David Norman, chairman of the cross-party group that will determine the application, said: “The funding will not be a material planning matter when the application comes to the committee.”
HEAR ROAR OF BOATS AT FESTIVAL
SOME of the fastest boats in the world will visit Southend as part of an enlarged Maritime Festival.
The start of the Venture Cup powerboat race between London and Monte Carlo will be held off Southend this June.
The coup will be part of a £100,000 revamp of the festival, which launched last summer.
Tall ship Atlantis, built in 1905, visited Southend Pier as part of the first two-week festival, which also included a yacht race, a marine activities open day and a performance by Southend Boys’ and Girls’ Choir.
The investment will also fund several council apprenticeships related to tourism and management.
NEW BUOYS HELP REDUCE SPORTS RISK
NEW buoys will be added to the foreshore off Shoebury East Beach to protect watersports enthusiasts.
The beach is home to Essex Kitesurfing Club and lifeboats are frequently called out to surfers stranded on the Shoebury boom, which is intended to stop vessels from entering waters off the Ministry of Defence base next to the beach.
The new buoys would more clearly define a safe area for kitesurfers and jetskiers to use to avoid being swept against the barrier.
Southend Council plans to invest £260,000 in the new buoys, as well as equipment for the Southend Marine Activity Centre.
SAFER PLACE FOR TEACHING WATER SKILLS
WATERSPORTS enthusiasts are to benefit from the cash windfall.
The grant will fund new equipment for Southend Marine Activities Centre, in Eastern Esplanade.
The centre, run by Southend Council, offers courses in sailing, windsurfing, powerboating, jetskiing and paddle sports.
The new lagoon would offer the chance for courses in a safe, shallow-water environment, but the council has no intention of moving the centre closer to Three Shells Beach.
The council hopes this will increase take-up of its courses.