Red tape delays opening of Shoebury Heritage Centre

A £200,000 heritage centre that should have opened in Southend at Easter could be delayed until next year due to red tape.

The centre at Shoebury garrison is based in the renovated Battery Gun Store in Warrior Square Road.

The formerly derelict building has been divided into three areas to accommodate a display area for military and other Shoebury memorabilia, a cafe and rooms for community use.

Delays in finalising the lease has meant the currently boarded up centre has missed the summer season and may not now open until next Easter.

John Budge, vice chairman of the Shoebury Coastal Community Team, which has overseen the project in partnership with the council, said the delays were disappointing.

He said: “It’s frustrating. We got the lease last year but we were concerned about a few things so we sent it back with five questions which weren’t deal breakers. We have only just getting those back from the council.

“The council said in June its legal department was snowed under and they passed it over to Essex County Council. We were hoping to open soon after Easter in time for the summer holidays.”

Mr Budge added: “At the very best the centre won’t open until late autumn but it might be better to wait until next Easter now.

“We’ve accumulated some good exhibits for the heritage centre but once we get the go ahead it will take a month to open.”

A group has been lined up to run the cafe using some volunteers, and more volunteers will run the heritage centre itself. The community rooms will be rented out, making the centre largely self-funding.

Carole Mulroney, councillor responsible for the environment, culture, tourism and planning, said: “We are in the latter stages of finalising a lease for the recently renovated grade two listed building with the Shoebury Coastal Community Interest Company who will be managing the heritage centre.

“The COVID pandemic resulted in some delays to progress, but the centre looks forward to welcoming visitors soon into this fantastic space.”

Avant Homes refurbished the listed building as part of the garrison development and handed over the freehold to the council in 2018.

If anyone is interested in volunteering at the centre they should email: [email protected]

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter