ONE of Southend’s top tourist attractions has announced it is to freeze investment in the town until seafront parking is improved.

Adventure Island managing director Marc Miller said despite the Stockvale Group’s £30million investment in Southend in recent years, the company would not invest in any new rides or development projects until seafront parking and infrastructure issues were resolved.

Mr Miller, who led a debate at the Southend Peers business breakfast last week, which resulted in more than 80 per cent of the almost 200 businesses naming parking and infrastructure as the issue most in need of council funding, said working with the council to fix the issue was vital.

He said: “When the sun shines, local people and those from outside the town head to Southend. On these critical high days for Adventure Island and other seafront businesses, the roads become gridlocked – often all the way back to Rayleigh Weir and sometimes even the M25.

“The reason this happens more and more frequently, is the 87 per cent who choose to travel in by car go round and round in circles, more in hope than expectation they will find a parking space. Many visitors, unfortunately, get so frustrated that they either turn round and go home or choose another destination for a day out vowing never to return.

“Very sadly, we as a company have come to a business decision, any future significant investments we were hoping to make in Southend, such as new rides and large development projects, have to be deferred until the town’s seafront parking and infrastructure issues are resolved.

“It would make no business sense to commit large sums of money if Southend cannot look to increase visitor numbers or even accommodate the level of we have now.”

Dawn Jeakings of the Southend Business Improvement District (BID) said the issue was also a priority for the group – but it was working with the current Tory administration to address it.

She said: “We’re supporting not just increased parking but also improving transport and signage around the town to make life easier for all our visitors.

“So many people coming here is a good problem to have, and even the previous administration was starting to talk to us about how they could make Southend easier to travel to, so it’s a discussion which is on the table whereas perhaps five or six years ago it was not.”

Yesterday the Echo revealed council leader John Lamb had asked officers to look into adding levels to the Tylers Avenue and Fairheads Green car parks.

He said: “That could double the capacity of those car parks very quickly and we are also looking at other ways to increase capacity.”