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  • "There is a view in other online forums, and occasionally on this site, that Darlington town centre is somehow dying. It's not dying - but it is changing. An outbreak of civic optimism would not go amiss. The key is to change for the better, to make it suitable and viable now and for the future while retaining the things that give the town centre its character. The High Row and the market square are fantastic spaces. The market hall, town clock and old town hall are a unique collection of buildings and envied by other towns. Even the street names, the -gates, rows, yards and one wynd contribute to a feeling of uniqueness, and add something to the town centre offer. The yards, if not unique, are unusual. Grange Road and Duke Street were pretty run down and neglected when I first came to Darlington, that's no longer the case as businesses with a bit of vision have embraced the periphery of the town centre. Recent work by the council and others has attracted new, small businesses into smaller, empty units. That needs to continue. The Feethams leisure development is excellent. Because of where it is, it will bring people into the town centre, rather than encouraging them to drive to some soulless retail and leisure park. The evening economy has changed too. Traditional pubs may struggle, but there are newer bars with a different outlook which do well. The restaurant selection in Darlington isn't too shoddy either. A new arts centre would be another attraction. Let it be in the centre, rather than in a residential area. Could it be inserted into an existing, empty commercial space? Have we asked? We do need to bring people back to live in the town centre. That is normal in Europe and was, once, normal here. Grange Road, Northgate, Duke Street and the grand houses on the western part of Victoria Road would all have had people living there. So let's have some radical thinking about that. Not around the town centre fringe, outside the ring road. Let's look at how we can get people living inside the ring road - among or above the shops and bars. Are commercial property landlords capable of that kind of thought? Let's challenge them. Then we might see a real change for the better in the evening economy. And let's find reasons to be cheerful about our town centre, rather than talking it down and then watching it decline."
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Your say on the future of Darlington Town Centre

The Darlington Debate: Have your say on the future of Darlington Town Centre

The Darlington Debate: Have your say on the future of Darlington Town Centre

First published in News
Last updated
Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by , Darlington reporter

ON Thursday evening representatives of more than 60 businesses and retail outlets based in the centre of Darlington will gather to discuss the future of the town and what it offers to the public.

The Darlington town centre conference, organised by Darlington Borough Council and Distinct Darlington, will focus on a regeneration strategy for the town and what can be done to help the centre thrive.

Business owners will be asked for their views on a number of topics –planning policy, specifically around empty units; how retailers can use the internet to their benefit; the potential impact of major developments planned for Darlington and the future of the indoor and outdoor markets.

Ahead of the conference The Northern Echo wants to hear from our readers what they think about the future of Darlington and how it can grow and develop in the next 20 years.

Give your thoughts on any of the following issues by adding your comments to this article:

• What would you like to see happen to the empty units in Darlington town centre? Would you welcome residential units in place of empty shops and office blocks? What leisure, retail or business opportunities do you think are missing in Darlington?

• Do you use Darlington’s markets – indoor and outdoor? Are the markets held in the right place in the town centre and do they offer the right mix of goods and services? How could the indoor market building be developed for the modern shopper?

• How often do you visit Darlington town centre on an evening? What brings you to the town centre or keeps you away at night? Do you think the new cinema and leisure development planned for the Feethams car park will make you more likely to visit? What is a priority for you – cafes and restaurants, bars and pubs, shops or leisure facilities? Would you like to see more entertainment events in the town centre?

• Has the internet led to you shopping less in Darlington town centre? Would you use collection services in the town centre for online shopping? Does online promotion of Darlington town centre on social networks encourage you to visit the town centre?

We will publish some of the best ideas and arguments alongside our coverage of the conference, which will take place on Thursday, March 27, between 5pm and 8pm, at Central Hall, in the town centre.

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