A NEW market in the middle of Basildon town centre could be the key to bringing in shoppers and boosting businesses, according to traders.

The town lost fashion retailer Peacocks this week after administrators running the troubled chain got rid of the least profitable stores, axing Basildon, but retaining Southend, Wickford, Rayleigh and Canvey.

There have been concerns for some time about the number of empty shops in the town and traders have called on the council to do more to promote what is there.

Laura Wilde, assistant manager of Interactionale, in Town Square, said: “The rents are quite high in the town centre and that is something which the council could look at.

“There needs to be more to attract people into the town.

“I think a market in the town centre would help get things going.

“It would be nice for people to be able to browse stalls as they are shopping.

“It’s not busy at this end of the high street. Something has to be done.”

Tam Le, 21, a nail technician at Nail Style, in East Square, added: “A market in the town centre would be great.

“At Christmas the town centre was really busy and bustling.

“It could do with more men’s shops as well. There is a real lack of selection.

“The centre has a lot of potential because there is a lot of space, but just not much to attract people.

“New restaurants and some bars would help bring the town alive at night as well.”

Peacocks closed within six months of neighbouring ice cream parlour Bella Rossi.

Staff at both premises believe works to replace an escalator from High Pavement to the Town Square with a stairwell led to fewer numbers of customers coming through the doors.

Steve Horgan, Basildon councillor responsible for regeneration, admitted the demise of Peacocks could be directly linked to the escalator works, which hid the shop from view for two years and made trading very difficult.

He added: “Basildon Council is doing everything it can to regenerate the town centre.

“While we cannot bring down business rates, we have brought free parking to our town centres to try to help.

“To help traders in Basildon immediately we plan to have the new homes on Gloucester Park built and sold and we hope to move the market.

“We hope this will improve trade within a year.”