PLANS for a new restaurant as part of an £8 million refit for Southend’s Cliffs Pavilion had to be ditched to make it more affordable, it has been revealed.

Councillors had already rubber-stamped the outline plan for a single-storey side and front extension on the theatre venue which will more than double its current capacity.

However, new plans no longer include a new restaurant in a sunken garden area but will focus on improving the existing restaurant.

The work will see the major expansion of the restaurant, a new entrance and lobby to improve the customer experience, upgraded ventilation, a new outdoor piazza and several other improvements to the bars, toilets, lifts and other areas. The move is designed to boost the theatre as a regional centre for the arts and leisure.

Derek Jarvis, Tory councillor responsible for arts, culture, heritage and leisure, said: “I am delighted to see the planning application submitted for this vital project. The proposed expansion and upgrade of the theatre will help us to secure the future success of the Cliffs Pavilion, in the hopes of benefitting from larger touring shows and bringing larger audiences to Southend whilst also benefitting our local economy.

“While there have been some minor changes from those originally proposed, the current plans remain focussed on improving the front of house customer experience, the exterior of the building and entrance and lobby areas. There will also be an improved food and drink offer through renovation and improvement to the various bars and on-site restaurant which would be expanded to allow 200 diners.

“There are no plans to change the auditorium or its capacity, or back of house facilities and this will enable the theatre to remain open during the work. All of these details have been shared through residents’ briefings.”

A revised planning application is needed, after previous proposals were deemed unviable due to rising construction and labour costs linked to rising inflation and energy costs.

Last month, Willmott Dixon was announced as the council’s construction partner for the proposed major upgrade.

Roughly £5.5 million of the project is being funded through Round 1 of the Levelling Up Fund announced by Government in October 2021, with additional investment from the council and Trafalgar Entertainment.