Kursaal lease talks stall over value of building

The Kursaal’s hefty price tag is stalling negotiations over the iconic Southend seafront building’s future, with council bosses claiming the owners want “far more money” than it’s worth.

Southend City Council is currently negotiating with AEW UK to buy back a 200-year lease on the building and bring it back into use.

The Kursaal was left out of Southend Council’s Levelling-Up funding bid, much to the frustration of campaigners such as arts cooperative Concrete Culture.

Council leader Stephen George said talks over its future have been hampered by differing opinions on what the Grade II listed building is worth.

“All I can say is that negotiations are ongoing. The current owners of the lease would appear to me to want far more money than we as a council think it’s worth,” he said.

“We won’t sit idly by and watch the building continue to deteriorate.

“We will take the necessary steps to ensure that they carry out work.”

Cllr George said pressures on council funds were also an issue.

He said: “We are going to have, over the next two or three years, some very serious, hard decisions to make in terms of our financial priorities.

“The only advantage we have is that compared to some other councils we are far better off.”

The 120-year-old Kursaal was one of the world’s first purpose-built amusement parks but has just one tenant left – Tesco Express – after The Rendezvous casino closed two years ago.

It is hoped the building can be brought back into community use, with the installation of an indoor market and a soft play area among the suggestions.

Matt Dent, Labour councillor for Kursaal Ward, said: “I do agree the price is artificially inflated.

“From what I have heard there has been some progress made so I’m cautiously hopeful.

“We need to make sure when we do get it back its in good condition and doesn’t require an enormous amount of work.”

Cllr Dent added: “I understand there are pressures on council finances but Concrete Culture have done the rounds of various heritage grants an pots of money that we could use for restoration.”

AEW UK declined to comment.


Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter