LEADING councillor Derek Jarvis has urged Essex Cricket Club to reconsider the decision to scrap the Southend Cricket Festival.

For the first time since 1906, Essex will not be heading to Southend next summer.

Mr Jarvis, borough council cabinet member for culture and tourism, said: “This long-established event is a treasured part of Southend’s sporting calendar and I urge Essex County Cricket Club to reconsider the matter immediately.

“The general committee said that it had decided on balance that the interests of its members were best served by moving the festival to Chelmsford.

“But I can’t see how that can be true bearing in mind how many of its members from the south of the county will be deeply disappointed by this decision.”

Jarvis added he was surprised the club had not contacted the council before making their decision, especially as the authority had worked with Essex to improve the event’s popularity.

“The council has worked extremely hard over the years with Essex, the festival committee, the Garon Trust and other partners to ensure the Southend Cricket Festival continued to be successful and financially sustainable,” said Jarvis “Fans of the game from south and south east Essex want to watch first class cricket in Southend and Garon Park has proved a hugely popular location.

“Attendances have improved year on year, exceeding those for similar events in Chelmsford and Colchester, and the players tell us they like the venue too.

“Around 4,800 people attended the three days of championship cricket in Southend in 2011.

“This compares with an average of around 3,000 per match at Chelmsford.

“And in 2011 Southend attracted by far the highest attendance by non-members for CB40 games.”

And Jarvis again reiterated that the Southend Festival also makes more money than its Colchester counterpart.

“The profit made by the festival from 2008 to 2011 was around £60,000 — this compares with a small loss at the Colchester festival over the same period,” said Jarvis.

“The umpires regularly give good marks for the wicket at Garon Park too so there are no significant cricketing reasons why the festival should not continue.”

Graham Longley, Southend Council’s Liberal Democrat leader, echoed those sentiments and insisted it was a huge blow to the town.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Longley.

“We don’t want to lose the cricket club any less than the football club, and I’ll be interested to know what will take part in its place.”