SOUTHEND Pier is set to benefit from an £11.5m investment which could see tourists hitching rides on rickshaws.

Work to repair damage to the pier timbers is already underway with more maintenance due to be carried out on the pierhead throughout the year in a bid to ensure the pier it is kept in tip-top condition for tourists.

An additional £1.5million will be set aside for reinforcement work to the Prince George extension.

Beach huts on the pier will cost another £50,000, providing venues for commercial and arts and crafts enterprises.

In a novel move, visitors could soon be able to hire rickshaws for quick trips along the pier.

Ann Holland, councillor responsible for tourism, said: “It is something I thought of when we had trouble with the trains. We went through a phase of thinking they had to be licensed but then we discovered they didn’t have to on the pier, only on the road.

“We have budgeted for a small fleet of rickshaws which we thought could be themed. They could be decked out in red, white and blue on St George’s day, for instance. They could also be used for weddings. Hastings has a similar scheme and it works really well.We could either have a fleet as a franchise or operate them in house, depending on how we take it forward.”

The rickshaws and the beach huts could be operating by this summer.

Ms Holland said: “We hope to attract people to sell craft items to sell. Craft companies that make things along those lines.”

A new shelter is also planned for City Beach.

Seafront traders have previously called for a new shelter as there are few places for people to escape summer sun or sudden downpours.

Ms Holland said: “We don’t know exactly where the shelter will go yet but it will be a seated shelter.

“We are also carrying out a number of improvement to the pier entrance and we have the pier lift building which we will be operating as a cafe.

“We will be able to use that building to display what we want to do in the planned new Estuary Experience museum on Western Esplanade.”

The council is also looking at providing a new sports facility, possibly a skate park, but it is yet to be decided where this could be located.