Prostitutes and drug dealers are “ruining” part of Blackpool and driving businesses out of town, it was today claimed.
One trader, who says he is so fed up with the issues he is leaving the resort after 10 years for a fresh start elsewhere on the Fylde coast, claimed Layton has become a “ghost town” in recent years.
Fylde Pet Stores, on Talbot Road, which has been open in Blackpool for more than 70 years, is relocating to Kirkham, with bosses saying they have no choice after seeing business dwindle.
Other traders said while they are still going strong, they have reported having to chase drug dealers away from their premises.
And police have made tackling the issue of drugs and prostitution one of their top priorities for the area.
Fylde Pet Stores owner Andy Pasquill, 39, said his annual takings had fallen by £70,000 in the last four years.
He added: “The area has completely and utterly gone – there’s drug dealing on Cameron Avenue and prostitutes.
“And the council has emptied the Queens Park flats so you’re taking away a lot of people overnight.
“The whole image needs to change around here.”
“There is nobody around – it’s like a ghost town. Every day is like a Sunday afternoon.”
Fylde Pet Stores, which once had several stores in the area, claims to be the oldest pet shop in Blackpool and Mr Pasquill said its impending closure marks the “end of an era”.
He said more needs doing to clean up the area or else more businesses will close.
Property websites Zoopla and Rightmove currently have 14 commercial properties in the FY3 area listed for sale.
Mr Pasquill said drug dealers and prostitutes are not operating while the store is open but are a major reason for the area’s decline.
He added: “It’s horrendous at night round here. We want to stay in Blackpool and it’s with regret that we are closing but if we carry on we won’t be here in five years.
“It’s terrifying. It really is.”
Sandra Veitch, licensee at the nearby Queens Pub, said she had a wall built to keep drug dealers away from the property.
She added: “I’m out at all times, screaming at them and chasing them away. It happens all the time. The company spent £10,000 on a wall to keep them out.”
But she said she kept trouble makers out of the pub so the problems were not affecting her business.
But she added: “To be honest, it’s in all areas not just this one. The police aren’t interested but there is not a lot they can do because they are gone by the time officers get there.”
Mr Pasquill said he had also noticed a sudden fall in trade since the Queens Park flats were closed and residents moved out, which he said has hurt businesses badly, adding: “It has practically destroyed this part of town.”
He hopes to open his new store, Springbank Pets and Aquatics, on Blackpool Road, Kirkham, by the end of March.
Ian Henshaw, owner of dry cleaners Ultraclean on Talbot Road, said: “We have had customers move away since the flats have come down but that’s just they way it is.
“We got a window put through last year by some druggies – it cost me a lot of money.
“There was nothing the police could do because we didn’t have CCTV at the time and that’s what annoys me about it.
“But that goes on all over Blackpool. You get drug heads everywhere.”
Robin Chadwick, owner of Kick-Start Motorcycles, also on Talbot Road, said: “You get quite a lot of drug dealers around but crime-wise it’s better than it used to be.
“It’s normally out of hours.”
PC Darren West, of Blackpool Police, said prostitution is not a particular problem in Layton. However, it has been singled out as a priority by the Police and Communities Together (PACT) committee in the nearby Talbot ward following a string of complaints by residents, which covers the area complained of by Mr Pasquill.
And PC West added: “We know there are issues with potential drug dealing – it is one of the priorities from the latest PACT meeting.
“We will be putting high visibility patrols in areas like the cemetery.”
However, the officer added overall crime is well down in Layton.
Coun Martin Mitchell, who represents Layton on Blackpool Council, said: “These problems are more general to the town than specific to the area, although it can be very difficult if you are on the receiving end of it.
“I know there are some empty shops in Layton but most have done really well.”
Dave Blacker, chairman of the Talbot PACT group, said: “There is an action plan around prostitution in Talbot – it is about protecting the girls as much as anything else. It is being comprehensively looked at.”
He said there had been a move towards street prostitution, rather than brothels, but it was largely at the Palatine Road end of the ward.