Business owners have hit out at new council powers to shut the seafront branding it "disastrous."

From Friday, Southend Council will have the power to close a section of the seafront to traffic “as a last resort” to tackle major safety concerns.

The experimental road closure order is being brought in to clampdown on crime and antisocial behaviour.

However, seafront traders fear closing the road will kill trade, drive away visitors and push crime elsewhere.

Traders fear closing the road to traffic kills business and drives customers away.

John Remblance, who owns amusement arcades Electric Avenue, Monte Carlo and Stardust, in Marine Parade, Southend, said: “I am always concerned about the impact on business with this sort of thing. In July it killed business and everyone was up in arms about it.

“It’s ludicrous and disastrous for business and I had to send home 30 staff last time. Everywhere was empty.

“We only had one issue in the summer and then we had more police and it was fine, it was very busy and there were no issues at all.

“It kills the atmosphere and visitors think they can’t come down here so go elsewhere. The problems and issues then just move to other parts of the borough.”

Council bosses say the order will only be used if “absolutely necessary” to protect residents, visitors and businesses while it is trialled over the next six months.

Ron Woodley, deputy leader and councillor for transport, said: “This experimental road closure order will provide the council with the powers to close the road to traffic if absolutely necessary.

“We saw a number of high profile, dangerous incidents in the summer related to reckless driving, and we want to be in a position whereby we can take action swiftly and proactively as appropriate.

“We carried out a trial closure in July which seemed to deter reckless driving in the area, so we have taken the decision, following discussions with local traders, to set up this 18-month order.

“I must stress that any closure will only be implemented when absolutely necessary, and we would ensure any closures are promoted as widely as possible.

“We will continue to work hard with Essex Police to build on the good work we have seen in more recent weeks to tackle anti-social behaviour and crime in those key hotspot areas.”

Echo: Closed - The road was shut in July Closed - The road was shut in July

The plan follows on from the trial of a late-night road closure on Marine Parade in July, in response to reckless driving and other anti-social behaviour that led to businesses having to close early.

It followed a series of illegal car meets on the seafront that descended into chaos and sparked dispersal orders.

Road closures along the seafront sparked fury from business bosses who said it saw the seafront transformed into a “ghost town.”

The road closure would cover the area from Robertos kiosk on Western Esplanade, through Marine Parade and end at the junction of Southchurch Avenue and Eastern Esplanade.