THESE are the first glimpses of Southend Pier’s new £3million cultural centre, putting many doubters’ minds at rest.

The 200-tonne web of steel, wood and glass is being pieced together at Tilbury Docks, ready to be winched into place at the end of the pier.

This is due to happen in about six weeks.

Work on the building has been under way for more than two months, but its off-site construction led many residents to question whether Southend Council would stick to its promises.

When finished, it will be used for public theatre, cultural shows, art exhibitions.

It will be available for private hire for conferences and even weddings.

Derek Jarvis, Southend Tory councillor responsible for tourism and culture, insisted everything was on track.

He said: “The problem is we can tell people it is happening, but if they can’t see it for themselves, they understandably may not believe us.

“What we want to show them is that it is coming together, on time, and it will be in place for the summer.”

Ninety per cent of the centre, which is 11m high at its tallest point, will be built at the docks, before it is lifted on to a barge and transported 18 miles down the Thames.

When it arrives at the pier, the barge will moor about 100m away and a sea crane will lift the building and place it on to a pre-prepared area of the pierhead.

The council hopes to have the centre in place by the start of May, although the process is dependent on the weather. Mark Murphy, the authority’s group manager for property and regeneration, said: “We need a period of two days of good weather to do it.

“If a storm suddenly hits us, we can’t risk it. The water would be too rough.”

Once the building is on the pier, bosses estimate it will take another eight to ten weeks to complete the glazing, wiring and finishing touches.

Mr Jarvis said he hoped it would be finished by the time the Olympic torch arrives in the town on July 6.

He added: “I think it will be a real symbol for Southend when it is finished.

“People will be able to see it from all over the town and it will be a real hub for culture and tourism.”