The bill to fix Southend Pier following the 1995 fire is more than £680,000, it has been revealed.

Southend Council's cabinet last night agreed to the amount charged by engineering firm French Kier, despite it being more than £70,000 above the original estimate.

The timber deck and supporting steelwork to the pavilion deck on the pier was damaged beyond repair in the fire of June 1995 which also destroyed the bowling alley.

A contract for the deck's replacement was placed with French Kier Anglia in February 1998 after it provided the lowest estimate of eight received by the council.

The work took six months, four weeks longer than expected due to the discovery of unforeseen corrosion and the dilapidation of elements of the structure which needed to be repaired.

The majority of the final bill is being met by the pier's insurers, with the council having to foot just over £26,000 from the pier structural maintenance budget for 1998/99.

Scene of devastation - the fire that ravaged Southend Pier five years ago, as well as destroying the bowling alley

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