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Southend-on-Sea was formed as a municipal borough in 1892 with the functions of local government shared with Essex County Council.In 1913 the borough was enlarged by the former area of Leigh on Sea Urban District.Due to the bad transportation links between Southend and London, there was not rapid development during the Georgian Era like Brighton.It was the coming of the railways in the 19th Century and the visit of Princess Caroline of Brunswick that Southend's status of a seaside resort grew.
In the 1790s landowner Daniel Scratton sold off land either side of what was to become the High Street, and the Grand Hotel (now Royal Hotel) and Grove Terrace (now Royal Terrace) were completed by 1794, and stagecoaches from London made it accessible.
An annual seafront airshow, started in 1986, when it featured a flypast by Concorde on a passenger charter flight, used to take place each May and became one of Europe's largest free airshows.
The show has not been held since 2012 due to a lack of sponsorship and funding cuts.
The town has been twinned with the resort of Sopot in Poland since 1999 and has been developing three-way associations with Lake Worth, Florida.
Southend Borough Council was criticised as one of the worst financially managed local authorities in England by the Audit Commission report for 2006–07 one of three to gain only one of four stars, the others being Liverpool and the Isles of Scilly.In the 1790s, the first buildings around what was to become the High Street of Southend were completed.