LONG-AWAITED plans to bring an iconic Southend building back to life could already be in jeapordy over fears the project could be too expensive to fund. 

Rochford and Southend East MP James Duddridge issued the warning about the proposed revamp of The Kursaal while giving Treasury Minsiter Helen Whately a tour of the city yesterday. 

The 120-year-old seafront landmark, which opened in 1901, was one of the world's first purpose-built amusement parks.

The building has fallen into disrepair and is left with just one tenant – Tesco Express – after The Rendezvous casino closed two years ago.

Southend Council bosses are eyeing up government levelling up funding to transform it into a multi-use community centre, with an indoor market and soft play area.

Echo: MP James Duddridge shows Treasury Minister Helen Whately MP James Duddridge shows Treasury Minister Helen Whately

But Mr Duddridge has warned the cost of the project could become a roadblock and see ministers reject any funding requests.

“The Kursaal is perhaps a bigger project than some of the tactical levelling up funding that we are talking about at the moment,” he told the Echo.

“Levelling up funding looks to make immediate impact and to generate local employment immediately.

"The truth is, buying back the lease on that (The Kursaal) is going to be quite expensive in itself before any full-scale redevelopment can take place.”

Echo: Levelling up - Helen Whately and James Duddridge survey Southend seafrontLevelling up - Helen Whately and James Duddridge survey Southend seafront

The council has until July 6 to submit a bid for the second round of levelling up funding – having previously secured £19.9 million to regenerate the Cliffs Pavilion and Leigh Port.

Southend Council is working towards submitting a bid before the deadline, according to councillor Matt Dent.

“It’s vital to make sure that we get The Kursaal back open to the public and that is my number one priority this year,” he said.

The Kursaal ward councillor says the cost of the project cannot be revealed with “sensitive negotiations ongoing”. 

But he is adamant the price will not be prohibitive and is “absolutely achievable through levelling up funds”.

“We are looking at the possibility of some heritage lottery funding and other grants for the doing up of the building after we buy back the lease,” he added.

Last year, Southend Council revealed it had opened discussions with the current leaseholders of the Grade II listed building, AEW UK, to buy back the lease.

AEW have at least 200 years left on their leasehold contract with no break clause, according to Mr Dent.