COUNCILLORS have agreed to release funding to buy a former fire station set to be transformed into a specialist children’s theatre.

Arts Council funding of £1.5m for a flagship child-centred theatre, The Hullaballoon, run by Darlington-based Theatre Hullabaloo, with Darlington Borough Council and Darlington Civic Theatre, was agreed earlier this year.

At a meeting of senior councillors, members gave their backing to the purchase of a former fire station in Borough Road as the first stage of the theatre project.

The council will spend £425,000 to buy the building, currently operating as a carpet shop, using money it had earmarked following the closure of the town’s arts centre two years ago.

Council leader Bill Dixon spoke of the importance of the Theatre Hullabaloon project for the town.

He added: “When we had to close the Arts Centre we did say that any capital raised from the sale of the building would be used for arts in the town.

“The advantage of the project is that it is based right next to the Civic Theatre, meaning that we are better able to protect the Civic.

"This is the best news for the Civic Theatre in a long time.”

Councillor Heather Scott, leader of the Conservative group, gave her backing to the scheme, but questioned whether the sale of the Arts Centre site was sufficiently progressing to provide funding.

Ian Williams, director of economic development, told the meeting that the authority was on target to achieve the “full disposal” of the arts centre.