AN MP wants free parking to be introduced in town centres across Castle Point to help boost trade.

Rebecca Harris has written to both the leader and chief executive of Castle Point Council asking them to look at free parking during weekdays.

She wants Oak Road Car Park on Canvey, and Rectory Road Car Park, in Hadleigh, to be free on weekdays.

However, council bosses said they were already holding a review of car parking, and added that they have some of the cheapest council car parks in Essex.

They were also surprised that the Conservative MP had not raised the issue when the Conservative Party ran the council for 19 years.

Ms Harris said: “Although the charge at Oak Road is not particularly expensive, local traders believe the inconvenience for drivers is causing more customers to choose the out-of-town retail parks with free parking.

“I recently visited the Oak Road Car Park during the day on a Saturday, when parking remains free and it was packed, and during the week there was barely a car in it.

“I can see why traders are very concerned.”

Darren Brown, the owner of Brown’s Pet Range on Canvey which is close to the Oak Road car park, added: “The council really needs to understand how important it is to help local, small, and especially independent businesses like ours in the town centre to get our customers back since Covid.”

Previously, the Rectory Road car park, at Morrisons in Hadleigh town centre, was free during the week. However a recent change means shoppers can now only park for three hours.

Jacqui Thornton, Conservative councillor for St James ward, added: “I recently met with concerned traders who have seen a marked decline in their footfall since Morrisons put limits on the time shoppers can park before being fined.

“People have no time to shop in the high street or grab some food or a coffee after they have done their weekly shop.”

Ms Harris has now written to the leadership of Castle Point Council requesting they review the changes and claiming the council “needs to rethink how they support high streets”.

Dave Blackwell, leader of Castle Point Council, said: “We are going through a car park review at the moment.

“But we have some of the cheapest council car parks in Essex. We will always look at ways to help local businesses and already have free parking at weekends and in the run up to Christmas.

“I am a bit surprised the MP never brought this up when the Conservatives were in control of the council.”