A MULTI-million pound leisure development that could transform Darlington town centre has been unveiled publicly for the first time this morning.
The £30m complex, with a nine screen multiplex cinema, an 80-bedroom hotel and a family pub, has been hailed as an exciting investment in the town that could create hundreds of jobs for local people.
Developers hope the site will become a hub for leisure activities for people across the Tees Valley and provide a huge economic boost to the region.
Up to 500 permanent jobs could be created in the complex, which will also include a number of bars and restaurants and a riverside relaxation area.
Darlington Borough Council signed a deal with property development group Terrace Hill last week that will seem them redevelop the 0.75 hectare former bus depot site in Feethams, next to the town hall.
Planning applications for the site, designed by local architects Niven, will be submitted to the council in the New Year, with work expected to be completed by December 2014 if they are approved.
Council leader Bill Dixon said the development deal was a ‘stunning result’ and an exciting step forward for Darlington.
The site will include a multiplex cinema operated by VUE Entertainment and an 80-bedroom Premier Inn hotel, arranged around a large open-air plaza that would lead to a Brewer’s Fayre family pub and other leisure outlets.
A spokesman for Terrace Hill said the group had already received strong interest from a number of national restaurant and leisure chains about the facility, as well as proposals from independent businesses.
There will also be 70 parking spaces on the site, initially allocated to the hotel, with cinema and leisure customers expected to use existing pay and display car parks in the town centre, where parking is free after 6pm.
A council spokeswoman said a long term review of parking provision in the town would take the proposals into account and could lead to the creation of new parking spaces.
The regeneration of Darlington town centre has been the subject of a long-running public consultation, with residents asked to submit their ideas for development they would like to see.
Councillor Dixon said: “I’m very excited by this. It’s an absolutely stunning result for the town, a great day.
“It shows that outside of Darlington people have faith in the town and its future and that we can go from strength to strength with developments like this and others that are in the pipeline.
“This really sets the scene for further consultation with people in the town about the town centre and shows that if we want something enough then we can recognise it and attract developers.
“It makes me really positive about the future of the town. There are opportunities out there, we just have to go out and grab them.”
Coun Dixon added that he expected the process to go smoothly, without major disruption to the rest of the town during development works The developers behind the plans, Terrace Hill, have also spoken of their delight at being chosen by the council and their hopes for the complex.
Duncan McEwan, head of retail and leisure development at Terrace Hill, said: “The demand from leisure operators for Darlington is very strong. In addition to financial investment in the borough, the completed project will create between 450 and 500 permanent jobs, in addition to construction jobs during that phase.
“With this in mind, we very much look forward to working with Darlington Borough Council in delivering what we hope will be a hugely exciting and popular scheme for the area.”
News of the facility has also been welcomed by Stephen Catchpole, managing director of Tees Valley Unlimited, the Local Enterprise Partnership for Tees Valley, who said: “Attracting such a large scale, high calibre leisure development to Darlington is testament to the growing reputation that Tees Valley is gaining with leading developers as a place to do business.
“This £30m investment will be beneficial to the area on several levels – it will be a major boost to Tees Valley’s economic wellbeing, generate hundreds of jobs and will greatly enhance Darlington’s leisure and hospitality offering. “ Terrace Hill will now consult on its development proposals over the coming weeks, before submitting its plans to Darlington Borough Council in the New Year.
For further information and to view plans for the leisure complex, visit feethamsleisure.co.uk. The site will go live on Friday, November 16.