DEMOLITION work has begun to turn a former bingo hall into a youth drop-in centre.

The former Walkers Bingo Hall and Social Club in Thornaby has been derelict for a number of years and has been targeted by arsonists and vandals.

Two years ago, firefighters had to rescue two young boys when they became trapped in the building after scaling a drainpipe to look for pigeons.

One youngster fell on to the balcony and narrowly avoided falling a further 50ft into the auditorium. His friend slid down a rope to help him, but also became trapped.

Funding for the demolition work has come from Thornaby Regeneration Partnership, through Stockton's Renaissance's Round Five SRB Challenge Fund scheme.

Ian Pallent, chief executive of the Five Lamps Organisation and Thornaby Regeneration Partnership, said: "The demolition is another example of the organisation's ongoing commitment to the people of Thornaby."

Once the work is complete, a drop-in centre will be built.

Mr Pallent said: "The purpose of this project is to ensure a successful transition from childhood to adulthood and empower young people to increase their economic potential and widen their participation in society."

Activities will include a drop-in youth inquiry centre, a non-alcoholic Internet bar and a nightclub-style events arena.

Dari Taylor, MP for Stockton south said: "At long last this ugly and dangerous building is going to be demolished.

"This is something local residents have been calling for for a long time and I am sure all the residents of Thornaby Road will be delighted to see the back of the bingo hall.