PARKING at the proposed Fossetts Farm shopping centre will be the key to whether Southend High Street is affected by the development, traders say.

The huge retail complex, proposed to help fund the new Southend United football stadium on the site, would have 1,000 parking spaces, but it is not been confirmed if they would be free to shoppers.

Southend Council is expected to makeadecison on the club’s latest set of proposals for the site some time in the first half of 2016.

Some independent traders in Southend town centre fear free parking at Fossetts Farm could be the final straw which drives their businesses under.

The new centre would have 35 shops, ten restaurants, and its own Cineworld multiplex cinema.

Queens Road toy shop owner Alan Dadswell has warned Southend Council of the consequences of giving Fossetts Farm’s traders an unfair advantage over town centre businesses.

Mr Dadswell claims he was forced to close the Rayleigh branch of his Toys’n’Tuck business in 2012 because Rochford District Council allowed out-oftown-retailers with free car parking to set up in competition.

He said: “I’m not convinced Fossetts Farm will be a threat to us, until we see what anchor tenant they have for the retail units.”

“However, I have concerns over out-of-town retail, because I experienced it first-hand.

“The most successful council in destroying high streets is Rochford Council, which allowed out-of-town retailers, such as Asda, in Rayleigh.

“I don’t have a problem if it is an even playing field.

“Councils should be given the opportunity to charge for car parking in out-of-town retail parks. People will go there if it’s free and town centre parking isn’t.

“Councils can’t have it both ways. They can’t have out-of-town retail and have their own car parks full in town centres.”

Another new retailer in Southend warned a lack of free town centre parking could come back to bite the authority if Fossetts Farm is approved by planners.

John Ginsberg opened his cake decorating supplies store, Sugar and Co, in the Victoria Shopping Centre, earlier this year said: “Not a lot of retail space in Southend has free parking.

“If they had free parking at Fossetts Farm, it would have an impact. Lakeside has it and that attracts people there. The big thing which has an impact on us will be the parking situation there.”

However, some other traders believe the specialist nature of their businesses will mean they are not affected by Fossetts Farm, where large national chains would be expected to move into the retail units.

Richard Onslow, the owner of the South record shop, in Queens Road, said: “This is happening all the time with out-of-town parks being developed.

“There are various challenges for local shopkeepers to face, such as internet shopping, but you either adapt or die.

“Unless a record store opens there,Idon’t think I’ll be affected.”