Southend's flagship Forum Library is set to expand thanks to a £2.7million council investment.

The council is set to help fund a four-year programme to deliver the second phase of development at The Forum on Elmer Square.

The contribution would help fund a £19million expansion of the library on the area in front of the award-winning building.

The proposal is part of the council’s draft budget proposals for 2018/19 being discussed by Cabinet next Thursday.

It would be a joint venture between Southend Council and South Essex College.

Although plans are at an early stage – and funding contributions from the college and other external parties are yet to be confirmed - it is anticipated there will be contemporary and community art gallery space and associated office, shop, café and project space to expand the existing gallery at the Forum. Plans also include a digital workspace for creative digital industries.

For the college, the new building would house a public and teaching restaurant, performance studios, music rehearsal and performance space including computer music suites and teaching rooms increasing opportunities for students to gain skills in the sector.

Ann Holland, councillor responsible for culture, tourism and the economy, said: “Following the success of the Forum, which has attracted over 1.75million visitors since it opened in 2013, officers have begun exploring the second phase of the development with partners and funders. Discussion with partners has identified a significant need for additional and reconfigured space by South Essex College who remain committed to the project.

“The mix of accommodation would, we believe, create a vibrant and lively environment that should enhance the town’s burgeoning educational quarter and also encourage the public and students to visit and use Elmer Square more.”

Anthony McGarel, Deputy Principal and Chief Executive of South Essex College, said: “We’re extremely excited about the proposed new development. It would allow us to increase our popular digital, media, music and performing arts offer in Southend plus provide the town with a new restaurant, benefitting students and the local communities we serve.” The building is expected to be complete by September 2021.