BRIGHTON’S got its Royal Pavilion...and now Southend is following in its footsteps after the pier’s new £3million cultural centre was re-named by the Duke of Kent.

The Duke, the Queens’ cousin, unveiled a plaque at the centre during a visit to the town yesterday.

He was following in his father Prince George’s footsteps, after he opened an extension to the pier in 1929.

In a short speech, the Duke said he thought it was a“remarkable piece of engineering” to have such a building situated where it is, and added “Southend should be very proud”.

The centre officially opened in July last year following its construction at Tilbury Docks. From there it was taken along the Thames and carefully hoisted onto the pier.

The pavilion has hosted a range of arts and leisure events since opening, including the recent Only Fools and Horses exhibition.

Following a lunch with councillors and other local dignitaries, the Duke was then treated to a demonstration from the town’s lifeboat crew, after he spent the morning officially opening the new inshore lifeboat station on Western Esplanade.

Before introducing the Duke, Mayor Brian Kelly heaped praise on the pier, saying it was Southend’s definitive landmark and played a significant role in the Thames Estuary.

Speaking about the newly named Royal Pavilion, Graham Longley, Lib Dem leader of the council, said: “Brighton’s got its Royal Pavilion and now we’ve got ours. It’s been a long time coming and it’s nice for the people who come up here to have something to do.

“It wasn’t a design we supported instantly, but its beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it looks much better now than it did on the plans.”

Tory councillor Adam Jones, who attended the ceremony, was delighted the town’s Royal Terrace now had a Royal Pavilion to go with it.

He added: “I thought it was lovely that the Duke spoke about his father and his association with the pier. For Southend, this will really help put us on the map.”

Visitors to the end of the pier were equally impressed with the new pavilion.

Janet Livermore, 65, from Leigh, said: “I think it’s a beautiful building, and so different to how I remember it used to be. It’s new and got a lot of style.

“I’m sure the royal name will help bring more visitors to the town.”