PLANS to rejuvenate Southend Pier are well underway with the new entrance set to open next month.

Earlier this year, Southend Council announced ambitious plans to invest £18million in the pier.

As part of the plans, work is underway to create a new entrance to the pier as well as install replacement trains which will make up an estimated £3.25million of the budget.

Work began on the entrance earlier this year and it is understood it will be open to the public very soon.

Derek Jarvis, councillor for culture, sport and tourism, said: “The pier plays a huge role in drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors to our shores each year, and as such we are continuously looking at ways of improving the offer available to pier visitors.

“Works to improve the pier entrance are almost complete, and should be open in the coming weeks.

“We have also refurbished two pier shelters with the remaining two being refurbished off site and set to be reinstalled before the school summer holidays.

“Work has also been carried out to replace damaged or worn-down deck boards, install new metal railings and we will continue further painting and decorating throughout the year.

“Extensive structural works to the pier stem will also continue throughout the year.”

Mr Jarvis said the works were all part of the council’s plans to ensure pier visitor numbers keep rising.

He added: “The numbers are increasing all the time.

“They’re getting near the 400,000 a year figure now which is fantastic and I think the new entrance will do a lot to bring people into the pier off the promenade.

“The trains will be the next thing and then the pavilion will come in the next five years hopefully.”

As part of the plans, Southend Council has also allocated £10.5 million for a new visitor pavilion on the site of the former AMF bowling alley which was destroyed by a fire in 1995.

While the council has yet to reveal any design or concept ideas for the pavilion, it is expected to include a restaurant and will be delivered once a business plan has been approved.

Mr Jarvis added: “In the budget, we announced plans to replace the ageing pier trains and procurement for this is expected to commence in the next few weeks, with the hope that the two new trains will enter service in the first quarter of 2021.

“Aspirations for a new shore end pier pavilion have been identified and initial plans are in the current year’s budget.

“However any development will be subject to an ongoing business plan being approved.”

Paul Thompson, owner of Pebbles One cafe on the seafront, said the investment is welcome as long as it is spent wisely.

He added: “I think it’s great the council has committed investment to the pier.

“The new entrance will be good when it’s finished.

“It should also help draw even more visitors in but in terms of the pavilion, the council are focusing on the wrong end.

“Visitors need a reason to go down there and there’s nothing for them at the end currently.”