A new lagoon costing almost £2 million is set to 'transform the visitor offer’ to Southend.
The exiting seafront lagoon project was granted planning permission by the Council last year and was originally set to be built for the 2015 tourist season.
However the project was deferred by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), which authorises marine developments, because of an objection they received from the Alexandra Yacht Club and the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) over landing arrangements – particularly for less experienced sailors.
The RYA shared Alexandra Yacht Club’s concern that its landing jetty, located next to the lagoon, would have posed a safety issue and the MMO refused to supply the council a licence until the row was resolved.
Lengthy discussions between the Yacht Club, Council and MMO have since proven fruitful and the original objection has now been lifted following the RYA’s intervention.
The tree-lined attraction, roughly the size of a football pitch, at Three Shells Beach, will allow bathers to take a dip even when the tide is out.
Marine licence granted
Costs for the project have spiralled to £1.8million, but the Alexandra Yacht Club has withdrawn its objection to the plans, and a marine licence has been granted, so now it is all systems go for work to start as soon as March.
The proposed pool, measuring 250 by 250 sq ft, will be created by building a 120m long steel, rock, and boulder wall on the foreshore. The council will now fund the relocation and rebuild the slipway, which appeases the club.
The Stockvale Group, which owns nearby Adventure Island, is contributing £100,000 towards the project. It will create eight jobs directly, but an increase in Southend’s six million annual tourists could create as many as 126 extra roles to cope with demand.
The Government’s Coastal Communities fund is providing £1.2million to the project, while the authority will stump up £600,000 from its capital budget, financed through borrowing, to remove and rebuild the jetty, re-landscape the area, and put in toilets and showers for tourists.
Yacht club happy with plans
The Alexandra Yacht Club, which has been sailing since 1873, is happy a solution has been found for the lagoon. The historic club initially objected to the plans, backed by the RYA, claiming it would block its jetty, be a health and safety hazard, and force them to close.
But after months of negotiations an agreement has been reached – Southend Council will fund a removal and relocation of the jetty away from being so close to the lagoon.
Linda McKay, Membership Secretary of The Alexandra Yacht Club, said: "We’re of course pleased that building the lagoon will make the sea accessible all day, every day throughout the summer.
“The solution not only provides the lagoon as an exciting addition to the town, but also provides safe sailing off the foreshore for not only the members of the Alexandra Yacht Club but also the Lower Thames Rowing Club.
“The yacht club, along with the rowing club, hope to keep our historic presence alive, whilst providing valuable water-based activities on this central section of the foreshore for everyone to watch, or take part in, alongside the lagoon facility."
The council owns the slipway, which is dilapidated, but leases it to the club. The authority will start work on relocation when it starts work on the lagoon in March.