TRADERS were left furious after Southend seafront became a “ghost town” over the weekend when traffic was banned overnight in a bid to stop reckless driving and other anti-social behaviour.

The move came after a number of businesses have been forced to shut early after illegal car meets and brawls with knives had taken place along the seafront in the last week.

Three dispersal orders were placed across Southend in a week of chaos as anti-social behaviour rocketed.

While traders were still able to access their businesses through the roads, their customers were forced to use diverted routes.

The closures were in place from 9pm to 8am on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Trader Paul Thompson branded the closures on the “tourist resort” as “ludicrous”.

He said: “It’s outrageous. The decision that’s been made is to make life easier for the police so they don’t have to police any of the car meets.

“I’m assuming a lot of police have the weekend off. It’s the start of the school holidays. So because of that I think the police have told the council they need to shut the road.

“They’ve made the decision without any consultation. It will create gridlock across the whole town.

“The seafront was a ghost town, you could see the tumbleweed. The first weekend of the school holidays and we had barely a soul.

“These are decisions as a tourist resort that we shouldn’t be making.” It sends out the complete wrong message. It’s ludicrous.

“I can’t even get my deliveries early in the morning because it’s shut until 8am.”

Joan Tiney, owner of the Borough Hotel in Marine Parade, said: “I think it’s a joke. It’s not good for our business and no traders want it. I’m not happy at all.”

Philip Miller, boss of Southend’s Adventure Island, took to Twitter to voice his displeasure.

He said: “More ⁦Southend Council⁩ lunacy, white flag hoisted surrendering to yob rule. When will they ever learn appeasement means you are the last one to get eaten by the crocodile.”

The road closures took place from the turnaround point on Western Esplanade, through Marine Parade and ended at the junction of Southchurch Avenue and Eastern Esplanade.

Police bosses have insisted they cannot tolerate dangerous and anti-social driving and will use a number of tactics to keep people safe.

Chief Insp Ian Hughes, district commander for Southend, said: “We cannot tolerate dangerous and anti-social driving and the wellbeing and impact on our wider community is always the most important thing for us and our partners.

“There are a number of tactics we and our partners can utilise to keep people safe and reduce impact of and road closures are one of these. We’ll continue to work with the council to monitor and review this action to ensure the benefit to the wider community.”

Council deputy leader, Ron Woodley said the rise in anti-social behaviour is creating a tense and unpleasant atmosphere. He said: “We are looking at longer-term solutions, but we also need to do something now, and so we are willing to try ideas like this, assess the impact and any issues caused and decide whether we carry on with the trial.”