£20m cash boost to pave way for Cliffs Pavilion revamp

A £20million cash injection will be the catalyst for a huge revamp of the Cliffs Pavilion in Southend with a plush new restaurant to seal its reputation as the foremost theatre in the East of England.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed Southend would receive almost £20million from the “Levelling Up Fund” to spearhead ambitious plans, including the Cliffs Pavilion refurbishment.

Under the bold new plans – to be considered by councillors next Wednesday – the Cliffs would get a big extension on the site of the existing sunken terrace.

This will form a new restaurant which will seat 194 people inside and 40 outside. The existing 100 seat first-floor restaurant will be converted to a theatre bar area.

The new restaurant will be in the shape of a heptagon and more than half of the extension’s flat roof would be green, planted with sedum.

The entrance to the imposing 1960s building will be enlarged and a new feature canopy will be installed and there will be new digital advertising displays.

Carol Mulroney, councillor responsible for environment, culture, tourism and planning, said: “We are really excited about the revamp of the Cliffs Pavilion to make it more customer friendly. It is already in the top ten of regional theatres and we want to keep that up and improve on that.

“We will be able to attract bigger stars to come to the town.

“I’m not sure when work would start once it gets planning permission but we would hope it won’t result in a complete closure of the theatre.”

Cllr Ron Woodley, deputy leader of the council, said: “We are very supportive of what is being done there to improve it for visitors to the theatre and for the cultural aspects of the town.

“It is ambitious but it will make a big difference and bring in some good acts.”

The successful bid for £19.9million in the first round of funding was announced at yesterday’s budget. Southend Council and HQ Theatres, which runs the Cliffs Pavilion, will also contribute to the scheme.

The council received nine letters from residents with objections including people staying longer and thus reducing parking availability and more noise and disturbance for the Shorefield Conservation Area.

Some parking capacity will be lost but planning officers who have recommended the scheme be approved, say car parks in Shorefield Road and Western Esplanade provide enough parking.

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter