A FAMILIAR Basildon town centre eyesore is soon to be consigned to the past, almost six years after it was closed.

The escalator at Northgate House was closed due to safety concerns after Basildon pensioner Dolly Parker, 78, died following a fall there in April 2004.

Developer the O’Connor Group was given planning permission to regenerate the offices into flats on condition it replaced the escalator with lifts. It began work in 2005, but was forced to stop due to financial problems.

The development has been in limbo, and it looked as if Basildon Council would have to use taxpayers’ cash to stump up the £800,000 cost.

But now a grant for the full amount has been handed out by the Government, and the lift should be open by the spring.

Neil Freedman, who runs Bella Rossi cafe in Town Square, can’t wait, as he says the hoarding around the work has “financially crippled” his business.

He said: “We opened and just a month later the work started. We have spent a lot of money on our sign and no one has seen it. The council has kept us updated at times, but it has been extremely frustrating, and the end can’t come soon enough.”

Steve Horgan, councillor responsible for regeneration, said: “The council had to begin the work itself, because we could not leave it half finished. Then we put in the bid and it was not guaranteed we would get the money. I have not seen the total bill, but £800,000 should cover the costs.”

A council report into the decision to use the funding for the lifts states: “The progression of the scheme will remove an unsightly blot in terms of the current work site and hoardings that are located within the main town square. Developers who have visited the site have all commented on the mess it makes of the town square.”