THE lack of petrol stations in Southend is leading to dangerous queues of frustrated motorists, a leading councillor has claimed.

Labour's David Norman says the number of garages in the town has halved in ten years.

There are now only two petrol stations open on the A13 between Southend town centre and the borough boundary in Leigh.

They are the BP garage in London Road, Westcliff, and Tesco Extra in Leigh. Both double as food stores, adding to the congestion.

Mr Norman, who represents Victoria ward, said: "In the past ten years, more than half the petrol filling stations in Southend have closed.

"With the closure of the petrol station opposite the Cricketers pub in Westcliff last year, there are now only two points on the London Road between Victoria Circus and the borough boundary where motorists can refuel.

"As a result, dangerously long queues often build up on the public highway.

"I have seen motorists nearly come to blows if they suspect others are trying to queue jump. I dread to think what would happen if we have another fuel crisis."

Mr Norman said he blamed property developers "who gobble up any available land in Southend".

He urged the council to do all within its powers to block any change of use, which meant petrol stations closing for more flats.

He said: "The interests of the community must be put before private profit."

Anna Waite, cabinet member for planning, said she recognised the problem, but there was nothing the council could do.

She said: "Competition from supermarkets who have undercut the petrol stations has had a major impact and you cannot tell someone to keep a business going which is losing money.

"When the applications for redevelopments come in to the council, the petrol stations have already closed and it would be impossible to refuse permission."