THE number of visitors to Southend Pier is up more than a third this year, after the new Royal Pavilion was installed.

So far this year, 161,233 people have visited the landmark, which is the longest pleasure pier in the world – almost 42,000 more than the same period last year.

The boost comes as trade association Co-operatives UK called for community groups to take over piers it claims are under threat from rising maintenance costs and insurance bills.

Southend Council, which owns and operates Southend Pier, has rejected the call, pointing to its investment and success in driving up visitor numbers for the past three years.

It installed a new £3million cultural centre, renamed the Royal Pavilion by the Duke of Kent, in July last year.