PLANS to move a weekly market back into Southend town centre have been revived.

Southend Council officials are seeking traders’ and shoppers’ views on bringing back a regualr market.

The town’s previous market, in York Road, closed in January after the number of stallholders fell to just a handful.

Tory council leaders originally opposed the idea of a market in the High Street, despite a 1,600-signature petition collected by Independent council members.

They seem to have changed their minds, after the idea was welcomed by traders and market stallholders. A full council meeting was expected to back moves last night to start formal consultations.

Martin Terry, spokesman for the Independent councillors, said: “It’s a good first step. I want to see us ask as many people as possible what they think and tackle this as a cross-party initiative.

“We need to get the full support for this and do it right.”

Council officials have suggested three possible locations – the High Street where the farmers’ market already trades; Victoria Circus; or where London Road meets the top of the High Street.

They believe between 30 and 50 stallholders might trade at a weekly Friday market. It might even attract fresh traders with stalls at Pitsea Market, which is being moved under Basildon Council’s £30million Pitsea redevelopment.

Stephen Burgess, who ran the Happy Pear grocery stall in York Road, said: “When we were in York Road, we got very few people coming past. In the High Street, you could double your takings in a day. I think it would be a great idea.” The proposal has been broadly welcomed, though a few town centre traders have raised concerns about competition from stalls.

The council would like Southend be be one of the Government’s “Portas Pilots”

– winning it cash for improvements, in line with the recommendations of TV retail guru Mary Portas.

Anita Thornberry, the council’s head of enterprise, said: “The recent Portas Review identified the importance of markets in town centres, with the proposal to introduce a National Market Day.

“Any goodwill among the public for markets does, however, need to translate into actual use and sales – something we did not see in York Road.”