Town centre conference
The Town Centre Conference, held on Tuesday 21 March 2017, was attended by around 70 delegates and was an opportunity for traders, businesses and partners to discuss the future of the Darlington’s Town Centre. Since the last conference held in 2013 there has be significant progress made in the Town Centre in terms of new development, car parking, the establishment of a vibrant programme of events, all set against a backdrop of a fast growing economy in the country, recognised with the recent LGC award for Driving Growth.
Following a stimulating and inspiring set of talks from the Combined Authority, Digital City and REVO there were a series of workshops held around the themes of Retail Futures, Leisure Prospects, Arts Culture and Tourism, Digital Opportunities, Housing and Access, and the previous Town Centre Action Plan.
Across the workshop themes there were a number of cross-cutting issues identified. These can be summarised as:
- The need to improve the key gateways and routes in to the Town Centre on streets such as Parkgate, Victoria Road and High Northgate in terms of public realm, shop fronts and the environment;
- The relationship of the town centre to its surrounding areas needs to be considered in terms of the wider mix of uses to include areas such as Parkgate and the emerging Cultural Quarter (the theatre and Hullaballoon), although set against the national trends for retail to possibly contract in the future;
- A call for flexibility in terms of change of use in the wider town centre, outside the retail core;
- Improvements needed to wayfinding and signage in and around the Town Centre;
- The need for a single point of contact and information for visitors, possibly in the form of a Tourist Information Centre;
- A recognition of the importance of the Markets and the location of the outdoor market and events, possibly with a greater focus on the Market Square; and
- Opportunities to use digital and information technology to improve the visitor experience and promote the wider Town Centre offer.
The notes of each workshop were recorded and are available to read [pdf document].