Cautious welcome from traders for town centre plans

First published in News Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter (Darlington)

TRADERS have given a cautious welcome to the approval of a raft of measures aimed at guiding the "once in a lifetime" regeneration of Darlington town centre.

Among the measures agreed by members of Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet on Tuesday (December 5) was the spending of £40,000 for a feasibility study on the potential future refurbishment of the town’s Victorian covered market.

Robin Blair, of Darlington Retail Market Stalls Association, who runs a fruit and vegetable stall in the market, welcomed plans to spruce up the market, but questioned the decision to spend money on a consultants’ report.

He said: “It was only three or four years ago the council spent £30,000 on a feasibility study which was quite complex, so I do not understand why they are spending another £40,000 this time.

“I would have thought they would have got the money in place to refurbish the market before they got another study done.”

Mr Blair said improvements to the market, if done well, would secure its future for generations to come.

He said: “We have got to be careful that we get it right, the market is the heartbeat of the town centre.

“Refurbishment of the market has been put on the back burner many times, but it is important that we preserve this way of shopping for future generations – it won’t come back if it is lost.”

The cabinet also approved talks between council officers and Harrogate-based Lateral Property Group, which could pave the way for a supermarket to the north of the town centre.

Market traders have previously campaigned strongly against moves to build a supermarket in the heart of the town, and it remains to be seen what the reaction will be to plans for the Northgate food store, which are at a very early stage.

Mr Blair said: “The majority of people I talk to do not think it is necessary to have another food store in the town centre.

“Perhaps, if it is something completely different – like a Waitrose – it would be advantageous, but we do not know at this stage who the retailer will be.”

Council leader Bill Dixon said: “As a Darlingtonian, I am passionate about the covered market.

“The only way it will have a future is if we invest in it and if the traders in the market remain relevant to the shopping public.”

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