SOUTHEND councillors have ditched plans for a seafront museum after revealing it would cost a staggering £55million.

Senior councillors, who have already spent £1.5million on the project to build a museum on Southend’s seafront, have ordered a rethink because of spiralling costs.

Revised designs for the council’s long held aspiration for a state-of-the-art regional museum - to be known as The Thames Estuary Experience - were due to be completed by the end of 2018.

However, an independent technical review of plans by a specialist architecture firm drafted in by the council, Hawkins Brown, has since confirmed the existing museum plans would not deliver what was required.

Additionally, a building in that location suitable for housing the significant finds from the Prittlewell Prince and the London Shipwreck would likely cost £15million more than the previously estimated £40m.

Lesley Salter, cabinet member for culture, said: “A state-of-the-art visitor attraction of this nature would be an amazing opportunity for Southend.

“However, the council has been very clear from the outset that any funding would have to be raised by a board of trustees and would not be met by council taxpayers.

“The £40m was an ambitious task. For this figure to rise to £55m before a single brick has been laid is an unpleasant but necessary wake-up call. It demonstrated to us that we just cannot justify proceeding with this particular plan.”

Plans for a museum have not been scrapped entirely and a new site will be identified.

Mrs Salter added: “Our aspiration to provide a world class museum in the town, showcasing the Thames Estuary’s rich heritage and contribution to the history of Britain, remains unaltered. But not in this location and not with this price tag.

“I would like to thank Hawkins Brown for their work on this project, which has helped us to understand our requirements and the likely costs and income generation opportunities.”

The plans included a 200-space car park beneath the museum. The council was set to build this first to kickstart the project using parking revenue but this plan has also been ditched.

A council spokesman said: “It was anticipated that much of this would be used by people visiting the museum. It would not be feasible to build parking without the museum. However, the council is always reviewing the number of parking spaces available on the seafront and across the town.

The London Shipwreck and the Prittlewell Prince finds are two stories of national significance which have the potential to attract visitors from across the country.