PLANS to build £19m teaching and performance centre in the heart of Southend have been lodged.

Forum II is a collaboration between South Essex College and Southend Council for a mixed use teaching and performing arts building.

Basildon Standard:

Plans - an artist's impression of how the centre could look

Plans include a recording studio, accommodation, a restaurant, new digital art hub, a range of performance spaces for dance, acting, and music, as well as recording studios.

Focal Point Art Gallery will also expand.

It follows the success of the Forum, Elmer Square, which opened in 2013.

Angela O’Donoghue, principal of South Essex College, said: “We’re extremely excited that a planning application has been submitted for our new provision in Southend.

“This new facility will 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 communities we serve.”

Councillor Kevin Robinson, cabinet member for business, culture and tourism, said: “The mix of accommodation would 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.”

Focal Point Gallery director Katharine Stout, director of Focal Point Gallery, said: “I am very excited.

“The Focal Point Gallery will be double the size so we can be more ambitious with programming.

“The digital art and production studios will see a creative community in Southend and people will be able to use the facilities for filming and production.

“It puts us in a position to support creativity for people in Southend, and give resources for the local talent.

“It complements the college really well and enhances the student experience as well as giving them a reason to want to stay and to even use the facilities after they leave. We really want to grow the creative community and this will be a real opportunity as the Forum and Elmer Square isn’t as well known as it should be.”

The South Essex Local Enterprise Partnership will contribute £6million with £2.7million from the council and the rest from the college. It is due to be completed in September 2021.