THE major £8million refurbishment of the Cliffs Pavilion has been hit by delays as Southend Council attempts to find a new firm to carry out construction.

The ambitious plans to rejuvenate the Westcliff theatre were due to begin last month after Willmott Dixon was handed a £5.8million contract last year.

However, Southend Council is now searching for a “suitably qualified contractor” after it emerged the project could have gone over budget.

The rejuvenation plan would see an expansion of the current restaurant to cater for 158 guests compared to a previous 100. A modern, brighter, more welcoming entrance and lobby and a stunning new outdoor plaza are also planned, in addition to improvement work to the bar, toilets, and lifts.

The plan was given planning permission previously by Southend Council in the hope work would start in January to help “secure the long-term future”, however this has been delayed by up to four months.

Derek Jarvis, cabinet member arts, culture, heritage, and leisure, says: “We must ensure this important project is delivered on budget. We have been assessing options and worked with our independent project cost consultant who believe that the project is deliverable within the allocated amount. We have therefore quickly got on with a new open tender, which if successful will delay the start of construction, which we currently estimate would be by up to four months.

“The Cliffs Pavilion Theatre is one of Southend’s key venues for culture, arts and events and this work will ensure that we reinforce its position as one of the top ten regional theatres in the country.

“The expansion and upgrade will also 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 the city whilst also benefitting our economy.”

The project is set to cost £8million in total with £5.5million handed to Southend Council by the Government through the Levelling Up Fund.

Southend Council and theatre owners, Trafalgar Theatres, are due to make up the additional cash needed however the council has stressed “it cannot risk going over budget.”

Southend Council confirmed the Cliffs Pavilion will not be closing during construction and shows will continue. The last major renovation to the Cliffs Pavilion was in 1992 when the balcony was installed.