A SHOPPING parade which has stood empty for seven years could be transformed into a supermarket.

Leading chain Morrisons is interested in snapping up the site, in High Road, Benfleet, which was previously home to a row of independent shops.

Five businesses, including a newsagents, charity shop and gym, were forced to close or relocate after developer Linatrop was granted planning permission to redevelop the site in 2007.

Residents in Benfleet were promised a new row of shops and block of flats with an underground car park – but nothing has gone ahead.

The shopping parade has been branded an “eyesore” because of unsightly hoarding Norman Smith, Tory councillor for Boyce ward, welcomed the proposals, but admitted he was concerned about the impact a Morrisons Local store could have on established businesses.

He added: “At the end of the day, I always welcome new businesses, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a small or large company.

“I would welcome Morrisons creating new jobs for local people, but I wouldn’t like to see independent shops suffer.

“Local supermarkets don’t tend to be as cheap as the big stores, so hopefully the competition would be fair.

“I don’t want to see businesses standing empty, but I’m just concerned about how small shops would be affected if Morrisons did open in Benfleet.”

Linatrop originally wanted to build four new shops and 15 flats on the High Road site, but more than 1,000 people signed a petition against the proposals.

A scheme for 13 flats was finally passed on the third attempt, and the number of shops was increased to five last year.

A spokeswoman for Morrisons said: “We’re always on the lookout for new opportunities where we can bring a Morrisons M local store to Essex.

“We’re looking at a number of sites in the area and look forward to sharing our plans with the community should any of these progress.”