A COUNCIL has welcomed a new report which has suggested its town centre is bucking the national trend of high streets struggling in a testing retail climate, but insist there is still more to do to secure its long-term future.

The latest PwC analysis of high streets and town centres across Great Britain, published yesterday, found that Darlington was one of just three locations across the North-East to see a positive net change in the number of stores in the first half of the year.

Although the score was just plus one – as a result of two stores opening and one store closing during the first half of 2019 – across the North-East there was a net loss of 38 stores, compared with a net loss of 71 during the same period a year previously.

Councillor Alan Marshall, Darlington Borough Council's cabinet member for economy and regeneration, said he welcomed the findings but insisted there was still more work to do, and said the council was planning to seek the views of college students across the borough to find out what younger people would like to see in the town centre.

He added: "We welcome the report and the findings that Darlington is one of the best performing towns in the North-East.

"Having said that, we are not going to be complacent and our Darlington town centre strategy is going to look at the issues facing our town centre – and how we can make improvements."

Only three town centres across the North-East saw a positive net change in the first half of the year – Newcastle, Gosforth and Darlington. The North-East towns with the highest net reduction were South Shields, Stockton, North Shields, Chester-le-Street, Morpeth and Blyth.

Nationally, 1,234 British shops departed the high street in the first six months of the year, the highest level since the start of the analysis in 2010.

In total, an average of 16 stores a day closed, with continued growth in online shopping, shift to in-home leisure and heightened restructuring activity the reasons to blame, according to the report.

The research also revealed that across multiple retailers in the 18 town centres analysed across the North East, pubs, bookmakers, fashion and men’s clothes shops experienced the highest net fall in the number of outlets.

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman said: "It is great news – people care a lot about our town centre and this is very welcome, but there is so much more that needs doing.

"The long term future of House of Fraser is important and we need to support the independent traders in the town."

Documents outlining the town centre strategy and access to the public survey can be found online at darlington.gov.uk/consultations.