THIS is the ghost town confronting residents and traders in a once-thriving part of Blackpool.
Central Drive, a former metropolis of clothes shops, convenience stores and restaurants is now a desolate street with as many as 20 shops standing empty or closed.
The recession has taken its toll with devastating effect and the street is a shadow of its former self as business struggle to cope in the economic climate.
Blackpool Council hopes the area’s fortunes will be improved with hundreds of new homes planned in the area.
Steve Hill, from Spearman’s Butchers on Central Drive, has survived as a business for 24 years and seen many others come and go.
He told The Gazette: “When I got here it was a lot busier. There were more shops, bakeries and a lot going on.
“The way the road has been developed has not helped.
“There’s less parking than there used to be and I think people don’t come here because there aren’t enough shops around.
“The only way we have kept any trade is by delivering outside the area and catering and providing food for hotels.”
Keith Cooke, 60, has worked in Threlfalls Bakery on Central Drive since he was eight and has seen the area gradually decline.
He added: “I used to have queues out the door, nine members of staff and a delivery driver taking orders out.
“Shops are closing and it isn’t as busy as it used to be and I’m selling sandwiches for 50p. If I can’t sell them for 50p then I might as well give up.
“Something needs to be done to tidy up the empty shops because this used to be a good street.”
Lisa Wellings, owner of Cakes For You on Central Drive, has called for all the empty shops to be cleared and made to look presentable.
She added: “I would like to think it could turn around here like it has been done in other areas of Blackpool.
“The council should make it a priority for the traders and it should be made to look decent.”
Kim Thomas, 47 and her husband Matthew Thomas, 51, from Ashton Road, Blackpool, have abandoned shopping on Central Drive because of the limited options.
Mrs Thomas said: “It’s a mess and has gone down a lot over the years.
“I didn’t need to go into town for anything at one point and could get it all here.
“The council should be cleaning it up and spending time on the area.”
Her husband blamed anti-social behaviour on Central Drive as a main factor for its decline.
He added: “We have been here for 19 years and it’s the old people I feel sorry for because they are nervous walking around here.
“At one point you used to hear them say ‘good morning’ and ‘how are you’, but it’s not like that any more.”
Other residents on Central Drive also expressed their unhappiness with the way the street has declined in the past few years.
Gordon Hanrahan, 34, from Rydal Avenue, added: “There are not enough shops here and those that are here are too expensive, so it’s cheaper for us to go into town.
“There’s a hell of a lot of empty shops and those which do open up close down so quickly because their life expectancy is so short.”
Bloomfield Ward Councillor Graham Cain, said: “We are focusing a lot of effort on the ways that we bring various areas around the town back up to a fairer and more prosperous level.
“What we need to do with Central Drive is bring in a real regeneration project that will bring a new spark to the local businesses.
“We are currently looking at securing a new 400 home housing development on the site just off Rigby Road, which will mean more trade for the shops and greater economic development for that area, which will relay back to the local people.”