Council set to buy and transform iconic newspaper HQ
Darlington Borough Council and Newsquest have agreed terms for the sale of The Northern Echo’s landmark offices in Darlington town centre.
The Northern Echo building, in Priestgate, will be acquired by the council as part of the Towns Fund initiative.
Plans for the building include a modern, high quality adult skills and training centre on the ground floor, with additional flexible commercial space for local businesses.
The upper floors will be transformed into apartments.
The council and Newsquest are exploring ways in which The Northern Echo could continue to be based at the building – where it has been based since 1917 – as a long-term anchor tenant.
The Project will be financed from a mixture of sources with the major funding coming from the Towns Fund.
Councillor Heather Scott, Leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: “The Echo building in Priestgate is one of our town’s most iconic buildings – up there with the clock tower and Victorian covered market in terms of being instantly recognisable to Darlington people.
“There has long been speculation about the future of the building and I am delighted we’ll be able to use money from the Towns Fund to acquire it and breathe new life into it, whilst always being respectful of its heritage.
“I do hope an agreement can be reached with the publishers of The Northern Echo for journalists to continue to have a base at Priestgate in the future.
“I look forward to sharing more details of this exciting development in due course.”
Karl Holbrook, Editor of The Northern Echo, said: “The sale of The Northern Echo’s Priestgate base paves the way for an exciting new future for this iconic building, the Northern Echo and, indeed, for Darlington itself.
“Changes to our industry, particularly a rise in digital operations, and latterly a move towards more flexible working arrangements in the wake of the Covid pandemic, mean that our beloved Priestgate site is no longer suitable for our needs.
“This move will allow this important building to find a new future at the heart of Darlington Council’s exciting redevelopment plans. It will also pave the way for the future of The Northern Echo, which is now one of the fastest growing digital news providers in the UK, by allowing our staff to move into accommodation that is more suited to a modern news and digital marketing services business.”
David Coates, regional managing director of Newsquest Yorkshire and North-East, said: “While the sale has been agreed, subject to contract, The Northern Echo will remain in Priestgate while we explore options for new offices. One option under consideration is for the Echo to retain offices as part of a redeveloped Priestgate. But, whatever the outcome, we will be remaining in Darlington.”
Kate Roe, Principal of Darlington College, said: “This is a truly exciting project for Darlington and the College is looking forward to working with our partners on this key town centre development. We already work with The Northern Echo to deliver their journalism apprenticeships and this project will be a natural extension of existing partnerships.
“We believe the potential for a dedicated, well equipped, really accessible adult learning facility would be a great addition to the town centre.”