Renovation of Southend’s old Beecroft Gallery would cost £1.2million more than originally expected - and demolition cannot be ruled out.

The former gallery, in Station Road, Westcliff, has fallen into disrepair and its future is uncertain after it was revealed the cost of renovation has risen by an extra £1.2million from an earlier prediction of £800,000.

The major increase in costs was revealed during a Place Scrutiny Committee meeting on Monday night where Labour councillor Kevin Robinson, who oversees culture and tourism, was unable to guarantee the gallery will not be demolished.

Mr Robinson told the committee his understanding of the finances is that “it will need £1.2m more than the proposed amount of budget” - an amount that meeting chair Conservative councillor Andrew Moring clarified was £800,000.

Tory councillor Alex Bright pressed the issue further, asking Mr Robinson to “commit” to ensure “no course of action” will be taken that could lead to the demolition of the Beecroft Gallery.

However, Mr Robinson said decisions will be based on specialist advice which is set to cost the council £15,000 and he “cannot pre-determine what that advice suggests”.

Conservative leader councillor Tony Cox said: “We will be sad to see that building demolished. It may be a relatively new building but in terms of significance and symbolism for the town, it will be a desperate shame to see it go.”

The council had plans to turn the gallery, which dates back to 1949, into an artists’ studios in 2015 and was handed more than £500,000 from the Arts Council to undertake the work. These plans stalled at some point over the past five years and committee members struggled to understand the reasons why.

A council report published as part of Monday’s meeting explained the years have taken their toll and the building is now “deteriorating and losing value”.

Tory councillor Derek Jarvis said “something has gone terribly wrong here” and questioned why nothing was done with the gallery, despite the council gaining planning permission in 2017 along with a “sizeable” loan from the Arts Council.

Referring to the previous Conservative administration, Mr Robinson said: “Historically why nothing has happened is probably a response that perhaps councillor Jarvis himself should give because they sat on it for a very long time when already having some money and nothing was progressed.

“When we took over the council, it was clear we had to be realistic about the condition of the building and that is why the condition survey clearly shows there are a significant number of concerns about the structural integrity of the building.

“Any scheme that would go ahead there would need a significant amount of capital, far in excess of what has previously been budgeted for.”

Members voted unanimously for the council to seek specialist advice on the building’s condition.