BASILDON Council bosses are considering buying up a controversial car park amid claims businesses are being put in jeopardy.

Gavin Callaghan, Labour leader of Basildon Council, said his authority is considering all options to deal with problems at Westgate Car Park.

Traders say a lack of parking restrictions – which has left the car park open to abuse by commuters – is damaging their businesses.

However, management firm MJ Mapp has since announced a new operator will take over “in a few weeks.”

It follows a period of time during which drivers claimed to have been unfairly fined at the car park.

A woman, who has asked not to be named, said: “Parking has got so difficult there since Smart Parking left it in a mess.

“My daughter works for one of the major shops at Westgate and the staff there have been told they may have to close if things don’t improve.

“Since the car park became free, commuters have clogged up the car park by taking all the spaces.

“Anyone wanting to shop there can’t get parked so they are just not using the shops.”

Another shop worker, who also asked to remain anonymous, said: “I can see how some shops will be affected negatively by this, because customers cannot get here easily.”

But Labour’s Mr Callaghan has pledged to take action.

He said: “I have been talking to our council officers about what we can do as a authority.

“I cannot enforce anything as there are no charges of tolls. We are looking at what we can do as part of our town centre masterplan.

“This could include a compulsory purchase order but all options are on the table.

“We need it to be run responsibly to support businesses and if this isn’t happening the council will have to intervene.”

Stephen Metcalfe, Tory MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, has joined calls for urgent action.

He said: “I agree we need it resolved as quickly as possible as it is currently unsustainable.”

A spokesman for MJ Mapp said: “The landlords for the Westgate Shopping Park are in advanced discussions with a replacement car park operator who will be taking over the management and operation of the car park imminently.

“The arrangements with the new operator are still being finalised so the landlord is unable to advise us of an exact timeframe, but we expect them to be on site with in the next few weeks.

“All occupiers of the Westgate Shopping Park are fully engaged in this process and we are not aware of any proposed closures.”