SOUTHEND Council is to spend £75,000 altering hundreds of seafront parking bays following a barrage of criticism from motorists.

The controversial diagonal parking spaces were only laid out last year, when the council spent £150,000 improving Western Esplanade.

The bays, originally at right angles to the road, were changed so they slanted away from oncoming traffic, forcing motorists to drive past them, then reverse in.

At the time, the council claimed the new layout was safer, but the majority of drivers – forced to stop on the busy road and reverse against the flow of traffic – disagreed.

Jimmy Howard, general manager of Maxims Casino, which has the slanting bays outside, said: “We have received complaints from customers about the current parking arrangements and we have made the council aware of them.”

Yesterday, the council confirmed it would be changing the layout so the bays faced the other way, allowing motorists to drive straight into a bay.

Mark Flewitt, Tory Southend councillor responsible for transport and planning, said work would start within days. A new zebra crossing, extra disabled parking bays and a taxi rank would be added at the same time.

He said: “We are making the changes following lobbying by residents and visitors.

“We have found £75,000 in the budget to change all 583 bays.

“We are in the middle of a lot of change at the moment, so it’s logical to do it now, before the summer.”

Senior Tory councillor Anna Waite was responsible for transport and planning when the slanted bays were were first marked out.

She said: “The layout was the Department For Transport recommendation for a road with a 30mph limit.

“It was also what our officers recommended to me, since we didn’t want to lower the speed limit on that bit of road.

“The council said at the time it would review the arrangement, after a season, which is what we are doing. I suspect the average speed along there is already below 30 mph, but I hope whatever decision is made considers all the safety aspects.”