A £6m revamp of one of Blackpool’s biggest eyesores and crime hotspots is under way.
Talbot Road car park and former bus station has long been plagued with problems caused by beggars, drunks and drug addicts.
In the last six months there have been around 100 incidents, ranging from anti-social behaviour to violence, reported in the area around the car park.
More than half of these crimes were inside the building.
But today, Blackpool Police’s new town centre sergeant, Lisa Griffin, said the multi-million pound overhaul – which is part of the first phase of the £220m Talbot Gateway Central Business District – will help rid the area of crime and will be a “big improvement” for the resort.
The revamp will see the car park’s dingy stairwells and parking bays, which are a magnet for crime, replaced with modern, safe facilities.
Security measures will mean only motorists parked in the five-storey car park will be able to gain access, and the facility will be manned round the clock.
It is a far cry from the existing building which traders say has fallen into disrepute and puts people off going to the area.
Peter Colling, 62, manager of the Salad Bowl in Topping Street, Blackpool, said: “This area has been left to rot away much like some of the other parts of Blackpool when they are allowed to fall into disrepute.
“People hanging around in there is not the kind of thing you want to be seeing when you come off a train and it’s off-putting for a lot of people coming here.
“The tidying up of the area will help tremendously because it will reduce the crime element of what’s going on in there.”
From May 1 until October 31 this year 52 incidents, including theft, assault, robbery, anti social behaviour, beggars, and drug users, were reported inside the car park.
Police say the building is one of their “main priorities” and officers are working with local traders to identify offenders.
Sgt Griffin said: “We target it thoroughly every day.
“By regenerating it and giving it a new image it will hopefully move the offenders out of the way.
“It would prevent crime from occurring and with us being around anyway, it’s going to be a brilliant improvement for the town centre.”
“Reducing access to only the motorists will be brilliant because we don’t want people in there who shouldn’t be.” Opened in 1939, the landmark is considered to be the UK’s first ever multi-storey car park.
Originally the council had planned to demolish the car park and rebuild it, but it was found the original structure was sound and it would be cheaper to carry out a full refurbishment.
The newly refurbished car park with 653 spaces is due to re-open next July.
Drivers will use their parking ticket to regain access to the car park when they return to their car to ensure maximum safety.
Six retail units will also be built into the ground floor of the car park, in the area formerly used as the bus station.
Laura Lawler, temporary chief inspector for Blackpool Police, (pictured) said: “It has needed work for a while, the environment has a massive impact on low level crime which the car park attracts.
“When people see others hanging around there they feel uncomfortable, so we want to make people safe.
“If there is proper lighting in there and no dark corners and all the things that breed undesirable behaviour then it’s going to take away all the problems like drug taking.
“By improving that and putting new procedures in place it will improve the area and reassure people.
“Our town centre teams will continue to monitor it once the work is done.”
Talbot ward councillor Sarah Riding said: “We have had a problem with crime and people taking drugs in the toilets which isn’t very nice because there’s a lot of people in the community who have lived there for a long time.
“But the work will be really good, it will all serve to stop those people being there. It will be a lot safer and make it a lot nicer for people to live in the area.”
Roger Linton, of contractors Tolent Construction Limited, said the building’s facelift will include repairs to the concrete building where water is seeping in and then re-cladding with glass panels.
The Dean Street pedestrian entrance will be refurbished and a new lift shaft and pedestrian entrance will be created on Talbot Road.
The lighting will also be brought up to European standards.
Antony Hill, special projects manager at Blackpool Council, said: “The refurbished car park will be safe, secure, clean and tidy.”
The Central Business District project also includes new council offices and a Sainsbury’s supermarket.