Essex's leading business organisation has called on Southend Council to improve parking in the town - sooner rather than later.

Denise Rossiter, chief executive of Essex Chamber of Commerce, has urged the council to get a move on with its parking strategy.

She said: “Like Southend Council and the Seafront Traders, Essex Chambers of Commerce wants to see Southend thriving.

“It has more of a mixed economy these days, but the leisure sector remains important to the future health of the town.

“It is with this in mind that we feel we must add our voice to the concerns being expressed about the town’s infrastructure including the provision of adequate car parking close to the seafront. “

Ms Rossiter added: “We accept that people’s leisure tastes have changed over the years but the town remains an important destination for not just people in south Essex but further afield too.

“Although we are fortunate to have two rail lines serving Southend many people still want to have the freedom to visit by car and, if they have a family with them, park close to the seafront. “

The council is working on its parking strategy which it hopes will allay seafront traders’ fears that the development of the Seaway plan will mean less available parking spaces for summer visitors.

It is set to become a retail and leisure area with new restaurants, bars and a multi-screen cinema.

It is unclear how many parking spaces will be provided, but it will be in excess of 400. Traders say this doesn’t make up for the spaces which will be lost.

Ms Rossiter added: “We share the concerns about whether there will be adequate parking provision when the Seaway car park is redeveloped both during construction and afterwards, we would hope that it will bring extra visitors to the town but if they can’t access its other attractions easily will they return?

“The council has promised to publish their parking strategy and tourism Strategy, two vitally important documents for the future of the town’s economy. We urge them to bring these forward as soon as possible to reassure both businesses and residents that they have their future needs in mind when planning the council’s overall strategy.

A spokesman for Southend’s Business Improvement District (BID) added: “We represent 371 businesses in the town centre and along the seafront, so when issues are likely to impact our members are proposed - such as changes to parking - we always ask them what they think.

“We asked how they felt about the changes to the one-hour parking provision in the town centre, and a majority of them felt this would be detrimental to their businesses and the town.”