A lack of big name stores meant a proposed shopping centre would have failed to attract people to the town centre, Braintree Council's leader claims.
Major retailers were promised when Henry Boot and Braintree Council announced they had signed a contract for the bus park site two years ago.
But council leader Graham Butland admits a town of Braintree's size cannot attract the most popular brands.
Original plans for a 32,000 sq ft retail and hotel development have been shelved in favour of a restaurant and leisure complex.
Mr Butland said: "There were retailers who would have come, but we didn't think that would particularly enhance the offer in Braintree.
"It was clear we were never going to get a John Lewis or a Marks and Spencer because the town itself is not big enough for that.
"There was no point in bringing in the cheaper end of the market because it wouldn't add a lot to Braintree."