A MULTI-MILLION pounds project to rebuild the Castlepoint shopping centre car park has moved on to its second phase.

The first phase of the work, which took place at the Sainsbury’s end of the car park, is now open to the public.

In contrast to the dark and dilapidated car park members of the public have become accustomed to, the new construction is bright and airy.

Now more of the old car park is being ripped down for the second phase, stretching roughly from Boots to Next.

The second phase is due for completion at Easter next year.

It will be followed by a further three phases with the entire project due to be finished in 2023.

Castlepoint manager David Pickett said he is happy with the way the work is progressing and that retailers have been able to remain open during the works.

Some stores closed for just a week to allow for the construction of a new walkway on a stretch of the centre occupied by retailers including River Island and Argos.

JD Sports has just taken on a bigger unit and new leases have been signed by River Island and Waterstone’s.

Talks are also under way with a party interested in the former Frankie and Benny’s unit.

“The contrast between the new part of the car park and the old is massive” said Mr Pickett.

“It is lighter and more airy and inviting. People are delighted it is happening and there is a sense of relief that it is underway.”

Mr Pickett said plans have been put in place to ensure there will not be a shortage of parking spaces over the Christmas period.

Extra spaces have been created to make up for those lost while construction work is taking place.

Castlepoint opened in 2003 with serious structural problems identified in the car park two years later.

Reports of falling concrete led to spaces being cordoned off and, in December 2005, the car park had to be closed completely because of cracks appearing in the concrete floor and columns.

It was closed throughout the Christmas period leading to huge losses for traders and inconvenience for shoppers.

It reopened a month later with temporary measures in place including netting and reinforcement and has remained the same ever since.

After many years of legal wrangling, the work finally started in June last year. The cost has never been revealed.