A £20 million government pledge to ‘revitalise’ Darlington will focus on regenerating the high street, tackling crime, and improving transport connectivity. 

As part of the budget speech in March 2024, it was announced that Darlington would be part of the second tranche of the Long-Term Plan for Towns initiative, designed to support areas needing investment. 

Further details of the 10-year plan for Darlington, and how the money could be spent, have now been announced. 

Darlington Borough Council has revealed how improvements and priorities will be 'owned' by residents, local businesses, and community organisations. It will also allow residents to identify their needs and hopes for the borough, which will help decide how the money is spent. 

“This funding presents a unique opportunity for strategic, long-term planning aimed at revitalising local communities,” the local authority said. 

Green Party leader Matthew Sendker welcomed the investment but said £20 million is “a drop in the ocean”. 

He told a cabinet meeting on Tuesday: “This has got to be seen in the light of over a decade of swingeing cuts to local government.”

Cllr Snedker said, if spent correctly, the funding could leave a “lasting legacy” in the borough. “When it comes to spending this money, I hope there will be a broad range of things we can look at,” he said. 

A new Town Board would usually be set up as part of the initiative to administer the funds, however, Darlington already has a similar committee. The local authority has proposed changes to make it more inclusive of community and voluntary groups within the town.

The thematic areas the Town Board will tackle include: Safety and Security; High Streets, Heritage and Regeneration, and Transport and Connectivity interventions.  

A 10-year vision for Darlington, with a three-year investment plan, must be submitted by the council by November 2024. 

Council Leader Stephen Harker urged the authority to spend the investment wisely “particularly as we are desperately short of cash”. 

He added: “It’s a very good opportunity for people who are outside of the council to give their views on what they feel is important. There’s a multitude of ways that we can use it that will have long-term benefits.”