A PROPOSAL to transform Darlington’s tallest building from a derelict office block into high-rise housing has been given a cautious welcome.

Developers have lodged plans with Darlington Borough Council to create 106 flats in Northgate House, which was built in 1976 and has housed companies and government agencies.

It is the latest in a series of proposals spanning a decade for the building overlooking the town centre, several of which have been approved without undergoing the normal planning process due to government action to speed up developments.

In 2014 the asset management company responsible for the building on the edge of Darlington town centre gained consent to build 50 one and two-bedroom flats.

Two years later planning consent was granted to transform the vacant office block into a hotel and a scheme to create a 129-bedroom Hilton by Hampton hotel was tabled in 2018. While the building has been empty it has become the focus of antisocial behaviour and safety concerns, including police appealing to youths to stop free running on the 131ft building’s roof.

Planning experts said the latest proposals, which again would not be subject to the normal planning process, highlighted concerns over the number of flats that could be created in Northgate House. They said if the scheme was approved it could strengthen the value of the building, which the council has previously expressed an interest in buying to redevelop as part of its large-scale regeneration project in the area.

The council’s economy cabinet member Councillor Alan Marshall said the authority had considering serving a notice on the building’s owners to force them to improve its appearance as its poor state impacted on the town centre.

He said: “It would be nice if we could buy the site as part of a strategy, but it can’t stay as it is because it’s an eyesore. Anything that happens to make it an attractive part of the town and impact on footfall would be positive.”

Northgate ward councillor Sajna Ali said while the previous hotel plans for Northgate House had been widely welcomed by residents due to the economic boost for the area, residents were concerned over the type of flats that would be created.

She said the large-scale works would need to be carefully managed, adding: “There needs to be consultation. It is an iconic building and its future is not a matter of interest only to the residents of Northgate.”