A PETITION has been launched calling for parking spaces to be reinstated outside shops in a bid to save Clacton’s struggling town centre.

Parking bays were removed from the central part of Pier Avenue to make way for bus stops as part of the Essex County Council-led town centre improvement works in 2007.

But the shopping area is now in difficulty with a series of large brands leaving the town including Marks and Spencer and Mothercare.

It is also feared Bonmarché, Peacocks and Edinburgh Woollen Mill could shut.

Campaigner Tony Woods has launched a petition calling for parking bays to be reinstated directly outside shops in the road.

A similar move to create parking outside stores has seen a huge turnaround in the fortunes of the once-flagging Clacton Factory Outlet.

Mr Woods said: “The lack of on-street parking in the centre of the town is the biggest single problem that Clacton needs to overcome in order to turn its fortunes around.

“We want to bring the buzz back to Clacton and make it more convenient for everyone to shop.

“Many local people have started shopping at Clacton Factory Outlet since the parking there has been put right outside the shops.

“It also works so well for Connaught Avenue in Frinton so why not for Pier Avenue where we have wider pavements?”

Mr Woods’ online petition - which has already attracted more than 200 signatures - calls for two-hour parking, possibly in diagonal bays, and for buses and taxis to pick up and drop off close to, but not in, the main shopping area of Pier Avenue.

Clacton Pier director Billy Ball has backed the call for extra parking in the town centre.

A spokesman for the pier said: “Clacton town centre like many is struggling yet we have a unique opportunity to improve the chances of the businesses that operate here by making access to our town easier.

“By returning a significant number of on-street parking spaces to our town centre it would again become a destination of convenience. That simple pop to the shop or bank would lead to secondary spend in the town’s other businesses.”

“This easily achievable step would be a catalyst for filing our empty shops attracting the better brands and supporting and encouraging the independent retailers.”

Tendring Council and Essex County Council have already submitted their vision for the future of the town to the Government’s Future High Streets Fund, which could see up to £25million awarded to the town.

The plans could include new and improved multi-storey car parks as well as an increase in on-street parking.

An Essex Highways spokesman said: “In comparison to many towns there is already significant on-street parking in Clacton town centre, the majority of which is available free of charge.

“There are presently no immediate plans to introduce further on-street car parking in Clacton town centre, especially given the extensive national and international evidence which suggests successful town centres need to strike a balance between cars and active and sustainable travel to make transport safer, greener and healthier for communities.

“Essex County Council is working in partnership with Tendring Council to explore development opportunities for Clacton Town Centre and as part of this are committed to engaging with residents and businesses to explore how we can deliver a holistic transport network that meets the needs of all users.”

To sign the petition, go to change.org and search for Bring back Car Parking in Pier Avenue.