"UNFAIR" parking charges and increases could "hammer" Southend seafront businesses and cause job losses as tourists are "pushed away", it is feared.

It comes amid plans from Labour, Independent, and Lib Dem councillors to introduce seafront charges from 6pm to 9pm, while reducing parking by 11.14 per cent elsewhere in the city.

Antonia Waite, 38, owns Oyster Creek Kitchen on Western Esplanade and says it could prove “very damaging” for seafront businesses like hers and may result in job losses.

She added: “The whole city is going through a difficult period. Now is not the right time to be hammering the seafront.

“We’re incredibly concerned about job losses.

“It all has a knock-on effect. The less busy we are, the fewer hours we’re open, and that means fewer hours for our staff.”

Miss Waite feels seafront businesses could be “disadvantaged” as diners would not have to pay for evening parking at city centre restaurants.

She added: “Councillors need to realise we can’t just survive off locals with parking passes. We rely on people coming in from all over the place.

“It’s incredibly unfair to reduce parking charges throughout the city and make people on the seafront pay more.

“We can’t expect people to park near the High Street and walk half an hour to our restaurant. We’re trading all-year-round, but there’s no way people are going to walk in the pouring rain in January.”

Kevin Buck, councillor responsible for parking, has warned “jobs could absolutely be lost”.

He said: “We know it will impact the night-time economy. We saw the impact when the charges were brought in last April.

“Initially, we saw an increase in parking revenue. But as people realised the cost, revenue went down by July last year. It was lower than in July 2022.”

However, Independent Thorpe councillor Martin Terry backs the plans and says there is “no evidence” that parking charges will drive people away.

He said: “I don’t believe it will affect traders at all. Residents know where to park to avoid fees and there’s free parking five minutes from the seafront.

“I’m confident this change will not make any difference. Anyone can buy the Southend Parking Pass for £125 a year and park for 34p a day, even visitors.

“Regular visitors can buy the pass and save a fortune in parking.”