Town centre ranked third in region despite on-going challenges
An independent report looking at the future of town centres in the region has ranked Darlington third in the North East for the number and size of its retailers.
The report, from the North East Chamber of Commerce and town planning experts Lichfields, has been welcomed by senior councillors but they say work to tackle the on-going challenges faced by the town centre will continue.
Councillor Chris McEwan, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for economy and regeneration, said: “We recognise and welcome the ‘Town Centres: Planning for the Future’ report but we are not complacent – we have some exciting plans for the town centre.
“Like so many other High Streets Darlington is not immune to blows but, by working in partnership with retailers and other stakeholders in the town centre we can tackle those challenges.
“We are working alongside business owners to develop a clear vision and a holistic approach for the future – developing actions for the short term and implementing physical change for the long term.”
The council is focusing on a more flexible planning approach to town centre uses, actions to improve the cleanliness and appearance of the area, parking offers and a comprehensive package of events has been put into place to encourage visitors.
The report recognises that town centres will have to change, with retail being more concentrated, sitting alongside leisure and residential. In Darlington that could mean more office jobs being located in the town and the council will be encouraging landlords to consider alternative use rather than buildings standing empty.
Cllr McEwan added: “The report makes a number of recommendations about how councils and stakeholders should go about tackling the challenges facing town centres and I’m pleased to see that they mirror a lot of the work already being done in Darlington.
“Business, property owners and the council will work to create the conditions for a diverse and heathy town centre. The focus over the next few years is to create a town that residents and visitors feel is welcoming, a well-rounded experience and is about enjoying yourself.”