LEADERS of a council determined to reinvigorate a town centre that has been hit by “seismic” changes in retailing are set to approve creating a winter garden, developing new food and drink outlets and a stronger evening economy in the redevelopment of a huge landmark building.

Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet will consider investing an additional £1.5m in the transformation of Darlington Victorian Indoor Market as part of its fresh strategy to boost the town centre.

The winter garden, which proved to be the public’s preferred option in a consultation in March, would be built on the east facing side of the market hall and include enclosed glazed sides to create “an internal environment”.

The revamp would also include the creation of a more extensive food and beverage offer in the market vaults area of the building will be funded through either the Tees Valley Combined Authority’s Indigenous Growth Fund or the council’s bid to the Governments Future High Streets Fund.

The changes would be in addition to that which the council’s partner in the building, Market Asset Management Ltd, has committed to developing an Enterprise Haven for start-up businesses and improvements in the quality of the shopping experience.

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An officers’ report to the Cabinet meeting states the building is “underperforming and is not fulfilling its potential” and that it remained “an important anchor in the town centre”.

The authority’s leader, Councillor Heather Scott, said the reinvigoration of the market was key to the town centre’s future and needed to be distinctive and have a high quality, safe environment to attract families.

She said: “This provides an exciting opportunity to bring more people, both from Darlington and the wider region, into the town centre. Darlington has got to be different. We want people to come to shop and stay for evening activities at the winter garden.”

Meanwhile, the Cabinet will also consider launching a public consultation on its overall strategy for the town centre for the coming decade, which could see a further £8.5m invested in the Skinnergate, Commercial Street and Crown Street areas as well as on improvements to lighting and greenery in public areas such as High Row.

The proposed strategy includes developing Darlington’s unique selling points, creating a more accessible town centre, investing in heritage assets such as Post House Wynd and Yards area and replacing empty shops with homes.

Cllr Scott said the council’s first priorities were the market hall revamp and attracting more people to live in the town centre.