TOWN centres could be left “without a heart” if proposals are passed to relax High Street retail space rules.

Tendring Council’s new Local Plan shows there will be no restriction on the type of commercial units in Dovercourt and Manningtree High Streets.

The Local Plan sets planning precedent for the next ten years.

Any building in primary shopping locations could be used for professional and financial services such as banks and estate agents, cafes and restaurants, drinking establishments or shops. Residential property would not be allowed to replace shops.

It means there would be no legal protection to keep town centres a shopping hub and could lead to a row of estate agents and banks. Previously there was a restriction where no more than 10 per cent of units could be non-retail unless given permission.

Concerns have been raised by councillors and traders.