AN ambition to further the rejuvenation of a town centre by creating homes for hundreds of residents could be partially realised in as little as three years’ time, a meeting has heard.

However, Darlington Borough Council’s director of economic growth told a meeting of the authority’s cabinet a large number of hurdles would have to be overcome before the plan to develop a ‘Living Town Centre’ and a development of residential homes, was achieved.

Ian Williams was speaking after it emerged a consultation on the council’s strategy to boost the town centre found the move to develop homes in there was well supported.

A report to the council’s cabinet stated the proposed approach was “very welcomed by the older people’s focus group”, who felt that homes conveniently located to amenities would enhance the accessibility for older people to the town centre.

It also revealed the authority was hoping to use a Government grant to help develop 150 properties in the Crown Street area.

Councillor Matthew Snedker said having immensely enjoyed living in a bustling town centre in France he strongly supported the authority’s Living Town Centre initiative and questioned how long it would take to create planned properties and how many homes the council intended to create across the heart of the town.

Mr Williams said it was difficult to be precise on timescales for the housing as town centre sites were complex and often not owned by the authority.

He said: “We have also got to look at the mix and type of property and there will be viability challenges that rest with that particular objective as well.”

Mr Williams said attracting funding from the Government’s Future High Streets fund would also play a part in determining the speed at which housing developments could be completed.

He said: “I use the word ‘could’ because they haven’t been designed, they haven’t been planned, this is just an objective.”

Mr Williams highlighted how five years ago the Planning Inspectorate dismissed the authority’s plans for including a number of houses on the town centre’s fringe on grounds of viability and so the council had to be absolutely certain of the volume of houses it could deliver before announcing the number it planned to build in the area.

He said: “Certainly attracting more dwellings above our retail is certainly an ambition, but it’s a question of how you persuade landowners and property owners to ensure that the viability mix is satisfied.

“You are talking about a three to five to seven-year period to do this.”