TOWN centre businesses have spoken out against a proposed cycle lane.

The business owners in Duke Street, Darlington, have safety concerns and are worried about the impact on footfall if they lose parking spaces outside their premises.

Darlington Borough Council has been given funding from the Department of Transport for the £1.7m scheme, which would connect Darlington Memorial Hospital and the town centre via Duke Street, which is now permanently one-way and has a 20mph speed limit.

Hairtopia owner Tim Hinton-Clifton, who has been based in the street for 40 years, said businesses had been treated with “contempt”.

He said: “I feel like this has been pushed through when 95 per cent of businesses have been closed for seven months. There’s been no dialogue or consultation. Everybody has faults with what they want to propose. The biggest problem is the lack of parking.”

He added: “At the moment businesses are lucky to have survived and they just want their businesses to get up and running. They think they can just hand this down without listening to anyone and that has aggravated everyone.”

Duke Street Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Duke Street Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Addressing safety concerns, Nick Thexton, who owns Stable Hearth, said: “The crossroads is an accident spot. Having a cycle lane is not going to be a good thing. They’re putting it down one of the busiest streets in the town centre. It’s meant to be 20mph but we still have vehicles coming down at 50.”

The council’s cabinet is due to make a decision on the cycle lane in July and if approved, work will start in the summer

Cllr Andy Keir, member for local services, said it was important for people to use alternative forms of transport to get to the town centre, and said getting people to walk and cycle was a “high priority”.

He added: “We recognise there are complex issues to consider and whilst the formal consultation was launched in December, the council has been promoting the scheme since August last year, with articles in the local media, on our website and social media. Letters were also sent to more than 800 residential properties and businesses in the area.

“I met business representatives a couple of weeks ago and asked them to send me any issues direct. I’ve not received anything from local businesses either before or after the meeting, but I do realise there are often strong and sometimes quite diverse views on schemes such as this. The scheme is designed to try and address the road safety concerns and any parking spaces lost will be replaced nearby. However, the scheme must deliver cycling and walking improvements if it is to progress.

“All of the issues will be presented in a report to Cabinet in July to consider. If Cabinet approve the scheme work could commence in the summer and would be phased to allow access to be maintained. Full road closures will be required for resurfacing but will be kept to a minimum and we will keep residents and businesses informed.”