WORK has finally started clearing the Glasgow city centre site earmarked for top store Selfridges.

Contractors have begun erecting scaffolding at the corner of Trongate and Candleriggs and will take the buildings down by hand.

Meanwhile, a digger has started demolishing properties in the centre of the site.

Because of the scale of the work there will be partial pavement and road closures in Trongate and the south section of Candleriggs and some pavement closures in Trongate.

ScottishPower switched off supplies to the site in advance of demolition crews moving in.

It is expected to take the rest of the year to clear the large, overgrown site.

Selfridges is paying for the demolition and despite receiving two offers for the land, has decided to hold on to it.

The firm plans to turn it into an event space, with pop-up shops and other attractions in time for the Commonwealth Games.

A city council spokesman said the second phase of the work would result in a comprehensive redevelopment with, potentially, shops, leisure and housing.

In 2002, Selfridges bought the former Goldberg's site, which is bounded by Tron- gate, Wilson Street, Brunswick Street and Candleriggs.

But it quickly became clear plans to build one of its upmarket department stores had been put on hold.

Discussions have gone on between Selfridges and the city council and three years ago the company applied for permission to turn the land into a car park.

Local shopkeepers have complained for more than a decade that the boarded-up site impacts on the number of visitors to the area.

City council leader Gordon Matheson said: "The council has recently had positive discussions with Selfridges.

"Selfridges is now carrying out a controlled demolition of a number of buildings on the site.

"I know it will be a great relief for many of the businesses and residents in the Merchant City that activity is now taking place at this location.

"My officers will continue discussions with Selfridges on how we can use this key site which sits on a major route for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

"I am sure we can come up with a suitable temporary use ahead of the Games that will ensure our city is looking its best as the world spotlight is shone on Glasgow."

Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stuart Patrick said: "This site has been a blot on the success story of the Merchant City for over a decade and we are overjoyed to hear that moves are afoot to bring it back into commercial use.

"It is great that it will be cleaned up and available for the Games, but even better that soon afterwards work will begin to have it contributing fully to the growth of the city centre."