PUZZLED motorists are struggling to park along Westcliff seafront after the council put in confusing new markings.

The diagonal parking spaces along the central reservation of Western Esplanade have been changed from facing the traffic to facing away from oncoming cars.

This means drivers are forced to drive past the space and reverse back into it.

Thorpe Bay resident Barry Linton raised the issue with two councillors when the first few spaces were marked out as he thought it must have been a mistake.

But the council says the new layout actually makes it safer to leave a parking space, although bosses have admitted the new system will cause extra delays.

Mr Linton said: “I went along the seafront on Sunday to see what effect it was having and it was utter chaos.

“People can’t see when a space is free, so stop suddenly and have to reverse back into the traffic to get into the space.

“The correct way is when you can drive nose in to a space, as at Lakeside. As you leave the space you have a clear rear view of the road, but as it is now you have to pull forward and look right over your left shoulder to see if anything is coming. It’s dangerous.”

He first contacted the council on March 25 via former councillor David Garston, who passed it to his son, ward councillor Jonathan Garston and also to councillor responsible for transport and planning Anna Waite.

But Mrs Waite said yesterday the altered spaces now conform to Department for Transport guidelines and that drivers should reverse into the spaces.

She said: “The new layout is what the department recommends. The previous layout contributed to a number of accidents, so officers tell me, and was clearly dangerous as people were reversing out into oncoming traffic.

“I understand some people will not be happy. It may slow up traffic marginally, but with every car backing in to the space it will not make a great deal of difference to motorists.”