ESSEX County Cricket Club has decided to axe the Southend Cricket Festival.

A decision was made at a club committee meeting last night.

A club spokesman said this morning that from next year the festival will be held in Chelmsford, probably in August.

But he added the Colchester Cricket Festival will remain as it is.

"It is very sad that after 105 years of first class cricket in Southend that we will not be returning in 2012," said Essex chief executive David East.

"The door has certainly not been closed on future festival cricket in the south of the county, but at this time the club committee felt that our focus should be at Chelmsford."

Southend festival chairman Mike Smith said, "This is a sad day for many cricket lovers in South Essex and beyond.

"It is now critical that we deal with all the issues, including development of the cricket community centre at Garon Park, so that we are in a position to attract first class cricket back to Southend."

The Southend festival was held at Garon Park in recent years but for many decades was played at Southchurch Park.

Festival organisers and cricket lovers, including Kim Bailey, the son of Essex and England legend Trevor Bailey, spoke out in defence of the event since fears for its future surfaced earlier this month.

The decision to axe Southend and keep the Colchester festival at Castle Park follows the annual end of season review conducted by the club.

Throughout the process club chiefs had stressed nothing had been ruled out regarding the future of the two festivals.

And a club spokesman said the committee considered very robust and persuasive arguments in favour of continuing at Southend last night.

And he added that the committee had decided on balance that in the interest of its members the club would be better served by staging the matches at Chelmsford next year.

The decision means that Southend has gone the same way as the Ilford festival, which was held in Valentines Park and was dropped in 2002 in favour of the Southend event.

Essex club chairman Nigel Hilliard added: "Over the last three weeks we have conducted an in depth review of the background and status of our festivals and have received considerable feedback from our members and other stakeholders.

"These were fully taken into account before making this decision, and as part of this review the Club agreed to continue with its festival week at Castle Park in Colchester for 2012."

Malcolm Rowley, who is head of the Essex Boundary Club and has been involved with the Colchester festival organisation for the last six years, is delighted with the decision.

He said: “It’s a massive boost, particularly with all of the rumours that have been flying around.

“It gives everyone involved with the festival a huge lift."

Essex County Cricket Club will still have a presence in Southend as the club will be developing its centre of excellence at Garon Park.

The venue will also have more than 40 match days involving junior county and second XI matches, according to East.

"We look forward to continuing our efforts in this area to ensure that we maintain a significant community and developmental presence in the region and that we are able retain an Essex cricketing focus in this important part of the county," the chief executive added.

"We remain fully supportive of the project to improve and grow the community facilities at Garon Park, and the fulfilment of these plans may open the door for future first class cricket at the ground."