MORE than £660,000 will be invested in promoting Essex's 350 miles of coast in a bid to drive tourists to the county.

Essex County Council has been awarded a £663,565 grant from the Government's Coastal Communities Fund.

The cash will go towards a project - named Path to Prosperity - which aims to showcase the best of the coast from Manningtree to Tilbury.

In total the project will cost £924,896, with County Hall putting in the additional cash.

It aims to promote the coastal path and coastal towns and villages as places for tourists to visit in a bid to drive the economy and regenerate the area.

The coastal path includes Harwich, Clacton, Mersea, Maldon, Burnham and south Essex.

The project is set to create 277 jobs by promoting the coastal path online, in print and on the airwaves.

It will also create 20 apprenticeship posts which will lead to 15 jobs, addressing skill gaps in coastal towns.

Small and seasonal businesses on the coast will also be helped with training staff in customer service.

The funding will be used to offer commercial support to businesses, encouraging people to visit the coast by train, improving signs and public rights of way and creating art and photography courses.

Digital interactive tools will also be used to create "thematic walking trails".

Simon Walsh, County Hall's environment boss, said: “We are fortunate in Essex to have 350 miles of diverse coastline, from award winning beaches and traditional piers, to mudflats, saltmarshes and remote creeks, many of which are havens for local wildlife.

“It is so important that the Essex Coast is promoted as a tourism destination to people across both the UK and the World, so that they can enjoy its majesty and support the local businesses that operate there.

“I'm confident that Essex County Council and our partners have the drive and expertise to become leaders in coastal economic development. This new funding will only help support this aim."

Gagan Mohindra, Essex County Council's economic development boss, added: “This is fantastic news and it's not the only thing we are doing to promote the Essex coast.

"Next year we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing in Harwich. This will turn our coast into an international visitor destination and will have a really positive impact on the local economy."