Questions over Shoebury heritage centre delay

A heritage centre in Southend, which may have cost £1million, is still not open a year after it was meant to open its doors.

It was hoped the heritage centre in Shoebury garrison would open last Easter but COVID got in the way.

The opening was delayed until the summer, and then the autumn.

The delay was said to be down to difficulties in sorting out legal loose ends with signing the lease with Southend Council.

Speaking on Shoeburyness Residents’ Association’s Facebook page, former councillor Roger Hadley questioned the delay.

He said: “I know there have been issues over the lease but I cannot understand why it is taking so long to get it sorted. Nearly £1million pounds has been poured into the centre and all we seem to have is an empty building. Work was finished months ago. Let’s have an answer – when is it opening?

Southend Council put up an initial £200,000 to launch the scheme to develop the Battery Gun Store, in Warrior Square Road, into a heritage centre though the final cost of the project has not yet been disclosed. The building was subsequently renamed the Coach and Wagon Shed.

The Grade II-listed building was in a poor state of repair as it had been left unused for many years, but now it is complete and ready to welcome visitors once hoardings come down.

John Budge, vice chairman of the Shoebury Coastal Community Team which has overseen the project, said: “We still haven’t signed the lease but it seems we are getting very close to a position where we can sign. As always it’s in the hands of the legal department.

“We need to be in there no later than Easter this year. In a way if we had opened in September Covid might have been an issue but hopefully we will have a clear start at Easter.”

A council spokesman said the lease was “still in the drafting process between parties” and that a statement would be issued when the process was completed. The spokesman added: “We would hope to conclude shortly subject to agreement on the final points outstanding.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter