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  • "Actually, I dont think it is that bad, I like the fact there are still a lot of independent shops and the town has the potential to have a nice feel to it. I also dislike the naysaying and those who constantly do the town down, it has the ability to improve but pouring cold water on every suggestion made wont get us anywhere.

    In terms of what I would do, I think it really comes down to ambition. Yes we need the shops and the market (if we can make it as good as the Grainger in Newcastle, that would be fantastic), but do we really pitch our sights at being a clone town with very little different to offer? If you look at the GDP figures, Darlington is one of the wealthiest areas in the North East with a far more affluent population than a lot of areas yet what do we do to cater for this and attract more? I was in Harrogate at the weekend and it was buzzing with really attractive shop fronts and, more importantly is a town that ouses self confidence, we should have that aspiration and be that confident. I accept that we will probably never have anything close to the money in Harrogate but why only have the ambition to hold our grey little position against the likes of Stockton and (lord help us) Teesside Park when we could be carving out a niche as a destination town within a huge amount to offer.

    So, in terms of practical things -

    I heartily agree that dodging the buses and the queues outside Waterstones etc is terrible and a bus station is sorely needed.

    Put some real investment into shop frontages, make them interesting rather than painting over the cracks and the poor quality, make them something people actually want to shop in and lease. Again, I have to look at Harrogate here and just a bit of thought could deliver something really nice.

    The yards could be great but are still dingy and at times dirty (especially when our night time revellers have finished with them). We could do worse than learn a few things from places like Sanderson Arcade in Morpeth. Whilst I know this is a new build and enclosed, they have managed to attract really good shops into small spaces and are pulling in shoppers. I have seen other towns where they have put glass canopies over some streets so people can keep dry and more of a cafe culture is possible - would it be a stretch of the imagination to do this over some of our yards and also light them properly so they appeal in all weathers and at night?

    Have a real drive to chase absentee landlords and those just sitting on buildings rather than doing their bit. I am willing to bet a serious investment in the "Flares" building on Skinnergate and getting a lovely frontage on the place would give a real shot in the arm to that area. At the moment Skinnergate is a bit of a no mans land between Grange Road, Duke street and Post House Wynd and it shows and makes the town a bit disjointed.

    Get rid of any 1970s street furniture, who wants to look at (and navigate around) planters made of pebbledashing and pre cast concrete? It looks awful and unwelcoming.

    Parking could also be cheaper but it is not a deal breaker for me as you can have 3 hours free in Sainsburys or 2 hours free in Halfords and just walk a bit."
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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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