Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has given the green light to ambitious plans to build a new state-of-the-art library and learning facility in the town.
The new development, which is being jointly funded by the Council, the University of Essex and South Essex College, is to be called The Forum.
Members of the Council's Development Control Committee gave the £27m project the go-ahead earlier this month. The planning application was submitted in June.
The four-storey building, which is due to be completed in August 2013, will be built on the site of the former Farringdon Car Park. It will provide a new public and academic library to replace the existing Central Library, a new teaching facility for the College and new research and learning facilities for the University.
The Forum will also provide a new home for the Focal Point Gallery as well as a new café and lecture theatre.
The Council is providing £12.5m towards the cost of The Forum, with the University contributing £10.4m and the College £4m.
Architects ADP have drawn up detailed plans for the new building and the main contractors will be announced in January 2012. In a recent two-day consultation exercise 83 per cent of those who took part indicated they were in favour of plans for the new building.
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council's Executive Councillor for Culture and Tourism, Derek Jarvis, said: "I'm delighted we have taken the opportunity to create a vibrant new public space in the town. The Forum is a very exciting project and now that it has been given the go-ahead by members it is suddenly starting to feel very real.
"It will provide a superb new library facility for members of the public and students from the University and the College. By working together in partnership with the University and College we will be able to deliver a building which will prove a real asset to residents, students and visitors alike."
Professor Nigel South, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Partnerships) for the University, said: "The Forum will provide students and the Southend community with a high quality modern library, gallery and meeting place. For the University it is also vital to ensuring we provide our growing numbers of students in Southend with the best possible learning facilities, and we will continue to work closely with our partners as the development starts to take shape next year."
John Hayles, Acting Principal and Chief Executive of South Essex College, said: "The Forum will be yet another great reason for studying and learning in Southend. We are all committed to lifelong learning in education so what better way to illustrate that than to have college, university and public library space all underneath one roof?"