A LONG-STANDING Darlington trader has called on the town’s council to provide a better deal for visitors and businesses.

Beryl Hankin, the owner of Guru Boutique, spoke out on behalf of a group of Darlington residents and business-owners.

Ms Hankin, who has run the Blackwellgate shop for more than 40 years, publicly called on Darlington Borough Council to improve the town centre.

She said: “Please give visitors, trades-people and the general public a better deal when they come into our town centre. We need them and they like us.”

Ms Hankin listed the town’s positive qualities - its mix of businesses, historic features, attractions and traditional market hall - before accusing the council of not doing enough to give people the incentive to visit.

Acknowledging the council is in a difficult predicament ,she added: “If something is not done about this, then at some point in the not too distant future, we might not retain all of the excellent attractions we have now.

“Show the people who want to visit us as much hospitality as possible and give them the good deal on parking and access which they deserve, make it easier for delivery people to do their jobs and make it easier for people to gain access with their cars to pick up heavy goods.”

She called on planners to stop the spread of the town and suggested re-opening public toilets in the market building and cleaning up the old town hall.

She said business people and members of the public had been expected to ‘put up and shut up’ for far too long and added: “Our public are our lifeblood, so reward their loyalty, please their eyes and their ranks will swell.

“If we invest in these things, we can’t go wrong. It’s all here for the asking but the door is not as open as it should be.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The council strives to further develop the town and works closely in partnership with our private sector including the Business Improvement District, which aims to increase footfall, and make the town cleaner, safer and welcoming for all.

“We welcome comments and suggestions to help to improve the town centre and its amenities to help ensure Darlington remains well positioned for business.”