A HUGE £14.8 million cash injection is set to boost the cockling industry and safeguard a south Essex port for future generations.

Southend Council plans to use Levelling Up funding from the government to rejuvenate Leigh Old Town, by revamping the quay and opening up improved access for fishing boats at the port.

As part of the works, the quay will be resurfaced, the wall will be replaced, and the entrance will be widened for better vehicle access. It is hoped this will also reduce the risk of flooding for residents.

Echo: Tranquil - Silt will be removed to improve access for boats Tranquil - Silt will be removed to improve access for boats (Image: Julia Byczwnski)

Meanwhile, a second project will see silt removed from a three-kilometre stretch of water to improve access for boats and hopefully boost the fishing industry.

Fisherman and Leigh town councillor Paul Gilson says he was “taken aback” by the multi-million-pound injection. However, he stressed the importance of removing the silt soon.

He said: “Unless we take urgent action, Leigh Creek will silt up to a muddy puddle.

“If we don’t, we’ll have even less access to the port and boats will go elsewhere, like Whitstable or West Mersea. We’ve seen two cockle boats move to Queensborough already.

“The council has got to make this investment. If it doesn’t, we’re sunk.

“Along with our cockle fishery, all being well, we should have two new clam fisheries which will want more space. That means more jobs should be created.

Echo: Historic - Leigh Old Town Historic - Leigh Old Town (Image: Florence Geary)

Mr Gilson says the investment in the fishing industry will in turn boost tourism, as seeing the working boats “adds a bit of magic” for visitors.

He added: “It’s all about keeping Leigh alive.

“There are so many good photos of sunsets with that scenery of the cockle boats and mass of birds. It’s nature and industry working in harmony.

“Think of the Old Town rammed every weekend. I can’t put a price on it, but it will significantly add to the local economy.

“There should be more jobs, in restaurants and on boats if we can develop our new fisheries.”

Southend environment councillor Meg Davidson said: “The structural quay designs are at the final stages ahead of submission to the Marine Management Organisation and the council for planning permission to carry out the works.”