THERE have been several plans to make changes to Southend Pier over the years, but just over a decade ago it looked as though the historic landmark was going to boast the world’s biggest rollercoaster over water.

Thorpe Bay businessman Tony Garner, managing director of Epic World Leisure, revealed fresh plans to breathe new life into our pier.

A shore-end pavilion, cinema, museum, new railway station, viewing tower and an enthralling rollercoaster were all planned as part of the ambitious scheme, which would have come at a cost of £50million.

Mr Garner won planning permission for the rollercoaster, which would have been known as the Swine, more than 10 years earlier.

However, Southend Council pulled the plug on the potential new-look pier over concerns about enough cash being available to see the project through.

The news came as a blow to Mr Garner, who felt he was on the right path to achieving something special on the south Essex coast.

In April 2008, he said: “We have already spent £1.5million developing our various ideas for the pier.

“We have had discussions with several banks concerning the financing of the scheme.

"In fact, we have been approached by one bank which was responsible for the funding of the large new rollercoaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

“I would say the most likely funding arrangement would be a package drawn up with a number of banks."

The recession also made matters difficult for Mr Garner to achieve his dream of bringing the world’s biggest rollercoaster on water to Southend.


Mr Garner added: "We have to bear in mind the current financial situation and no company could consider borrowing money for this type of scheme unless everything is in place to go ahead.

"My opinion is that the credit crunch will bottom out during this year, after which things should be easier.”

Architect Bernard Gooding felt the plans had more credibility than previous proposals to revamp the pier because talks had already taken place with Southend Council planning officials in 2007.

But the council insisted no decision had been made on any pier development.

Chief executive and town clerk Rob Tinlin said: "While council officers held normal pre-application discussions with representatives of Epic World last year, the details of the plans which have recently been published are purely those of the private company and are not put forward on behalf of, or with the support of, Southend Council.

"We are fully committed to regenerating the pier and any participation in the development or management of the pier in line with the findings of the public consultation, carried out last year, will be sought by normal open tender.

"Any independent plans or proposals put to us will be considered through the normal planning process."

However, adrenaline junkies were left disappointed when it was confirmed the Swine would not be built despite Mr Garner’s hopes.