Southend-on-Sea Council has scrapped plans for a seafront museum, designed by Hawkins\Brown, amid spiralling costs
The practice was appointed last year to rework a consented scheme (pictured below) by AEW Architects for a museum of local history on the Southend seafront.
But after cost consultants suggested the price tag had risen from £40 million to £55 million, the Essex local authority called an end to the project.
Cabinet member for growth James Courtenay said a museum should be built on the town’s high street instead.
‘The proposed site on the cliffs has been around for a while now, but times have changed and so have the town’s priorities,’ he said.
‘I would like to see the museum form part of the regeneration our high street, which is going to have to become a lot more mixed-use in future, rather than being so strongly dominated by retail.’
Cabinet member for culture Lesley Salter said taxpayers would not fund the museum.
‘The £40 million was an ambitious task,’ she said. ‘For this figure to rise to £55 million before a single brick has been laid is an unpleasant but necessary wake-up call. It demonstrated to us that we just cannot justify proceeding with this particular plan.
‘Our aspiration to provide a world-class museum in the town, showcasing the Thames Estuary’s rich heritage and contribution to the history of Britain, remains unaltered. But not in this location and not with this price tag.’
The museum was due to feature archaeological discoveries from Southend’s royal Saxon tomb – unearthed in 2004 – and items from the shipwreck of the London, which sank 350 years ago.
Hawkins\Brown partner Euan Macdonald said the practice had led a team of consultants to review the consented plan against the council’s evolving requirements with a view to submitting a revised planning application by the end of this year.
‘Our review of the project concluded that the original budget of £40 million would not meet the requirements needed to deliver a viable museum with appropriate facilities on this site,’ he said. ‘A revised budget of £55 million was identified by an independently appointed cost consultant to ensure the delivery of a visitor attraction that would secure long-term value for Southend.
‘As a result of this process, the council has decided to reconsider its options for the site and project. While this is regrettable and has resulted in the termination of our project, we are satisfied that the long-term good is served by this outcome.’
Hawkins\Brown defeated rival bids by Arup, BDP, UNStudio and DSDHA to win the museum delivery contract in 2017.
AEW Architects originally won the project in March 2009, securing planning permission in 2012. Stabilisation works on the prominent cliff-side site have been completed.
AEW has been contacted for comment.