PLANNING permission has been granted for a “massive” multi-storey car park in Darlington.

The 650-space five storey development is being built to accommodate the extra traffic generated when the under-development Feethams leisure complex is complete.

Darlington Borough Council leader Bill Dixon told a meeting of the town’s planning committee that the car park – to be built on Beaumont Street - might not win any beauty competitions but was absolutely necessary to cope with the predicted increase in demand for town centre parking.

He also said its location would help the town centre thrive by increasing footfall for businesses in its vicinity.

Cllr Dixon said: “This car park is not something we have just pulled out of a hat, there have been plans for a multi-storey car park on this site since 1997.

“It is an integral part of what the town centre needs. There is a real issue around a lack of footfall in Houndgate and Blackwellgate but this will increase footfall as shoppers will have to walk through there.

“This has got to be a good thing, it will give businesses on the route to Northgate a fighting chance of picking up more trade.

He added: “Not many local authorities can say that developers are flooding in with £30 million plans and either our town centre moves forward in this way or it doesn’t.

“We need to ensure, not for my sake, but for my children’s sake that we pass on a town centre that is capable of growing as we want it to.”

The development, which will be built close to listed buildings on Houndgate, has attracted concern from some local residents.

An objector speaking at today’s (June 4) meeting said the listed buildings could become damaged as a result of extra traffic and claimed there was no evidence to support the need for more town centre parking.