Basildon Council has received a welcome funding boost as it bids to make its street markets a real attraction for visitors to the town.

The council has been awarded a grant worth more than £500,000 by the European Regional Development Fund to boost visitor numbers and create more economic opportunities for the borough.

The funding has been welcomed by the council as it will enable it to support businesses and create more opportunities for traders.

Councillor Linda Allport-Hodge, chairman of the Infrastructure, Growth and Development Committee, was delighted with the grant.

She said: “People love markets for so many reasons and this funding is great news for our market traders, residents and visitors to the borough.

“Markets contribute towards the economy and provide a sense of community for those that use them. This will help our markets be even more successful.”

She added: “The funding announcement is just the start, next comes the research to get a real insight into the markets.

“This is a great achievement for our Economic Development team to not only secure this funding but to be leading on such an innovative project.”

The funding is part of the European Regional Development Funds cross-channel project “Go Trade”, which stands for Growth of the Visitor Economy through Traditional Markets, Employment and Skills.

The council is the acting leader of the 16-member partnership of Go Trade, which is a three-year project. Basildon will lead other members, comprising of local councils and trading associations in southern England and northern France to drive more visitors to their economies.

Councillor Kerry Smith, leader of the Independence from the EU party, who represents the Nethermayne ward, remains sceptical.

He said: “My view of the funding is the EU is trying to sweeten a deal with us to buy us back.”

He described the grant as “awkward” since nearly 70 per cent of Basildon voted for Brexit.

Mr Smith also claimed the European Union is corrupt and suggested the council is better off without any ties with them.

But he seemed resigned to the fact nothing could be done, adding: “It’s too late for them to try to do something about it.”