UNEXPECTED guests have made themselves at home in Southend’s cliff lift, delaying its re-opening following the Covid pandemic.

The iconic lift, built in 1912, was “invaded” by nesting pigeons following months of closure caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

Southend Council had to sensitively remove the nest and make further checks before considering the re-opening of the popular funicular railway.

Carole Mulroney, Lib Dem councillor for environment, culture, tourism and planning, said: “The cliff lift was unfortunately out of action throughout the pandemic due to the size of the lift, meaning there was little to no room for social distancing.

“Following the relaxation of the rules, there were some issues identified which need rectifying, mainly a nest of pigeons that managed to set up in the lift.

“The nest has since been removed, and further checks are being carried out before we can once again welcome visitors to the lift to enjoy panoramic views of the estuary.

“We will announce a reopening date as soon as possible.”

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Joan Tiney, owner of the Borough Hotel on Southend seafront, said: “I think it’s really important to get the cliff lift back open as soon as we can, the quicker the better.

“Anything we can do to get people on the seafront can only be a good thing, so I’m looking forward to seeing it back on.

“That being said, I’ve never heard of birds nesting in there before. I suspect it’s probably where it hasn’t been used. I’m not a pigeon expert by any means, but I’d imagine they got in there where it’s been stagnant all that time - it must’ve been about 18 months.

“They obviously then just made themselves at home.”

Eastwood resident Kimberley O’Connell also hopes to see the cliff lift back up and running again soon.

She said: “This lift is iconic for Southend and is really good for helping people who aren’t so mobile get up and down the cliffs to take in the views.

“It’s run by volunteers as well.

“It’s obviously been out of use for some time, and the pigeons haven’t done it on purpose.

“It’s nesting season too which probably has played a part in it.

“It must’ve been quiet and seemed like the perfect place to go.”