A BUSINESSMAN says he will be forced to close his 30-year-old firm if a budget supermarket is allowed to open a store in Eastwood.

Raife Clarke, owner of Essex Timber & Plywood, in Rayleigh Road, says he faces a fight to survive if Lidl moves into a new store on the corner of Progress Road and Rayleigh Road.

A planning application from Lidl was turned down by Southend Council for the site, which includes the former Safestore warehouse, last September.

Planners ruled it would deprive the Progress Road industrial estate of valuable industrial land, and would increase traffic problems in the area. However, a new plan has now been submitted with a different design, offering 6,800sq ft of office space in a tower as part of the store.

This has been added in an effort to overcome objections to the loss of employment land.

Mr Clarke said: “The development will mean the closure of Essex Timber – a family firm that employs 14 people and has been on the site for more than 30 years.

“We have just taken on two new apprentices from Seetec College and have agreed to take three more this summer– bringing our total employed to 19 staff.”

He said the newplans should be rejected by the council for a number of reasons, including access issues over the busy Progress Road, a lack of parking spaces and concerns other businesses would also be forced to close because they couldn’t compete.

A rival bid from a consortium of businessmen, to turn the site into a business park, has also been launched.