A BUSINESS hub aimed at bringing hundreds of jobs to a town centre could be ready in 2019, bosses have revealed.

Darlington Borough Council is pushing ahead with a blueprint to deliver an office block next to the £30m Feethams development.

Officials say they now believe the 30,000sq ft building, known as Feethams House, could be finished by autumn 2019 and bring up to 300 jobs to the town, providing a home for growing small and medium-sized firms.

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Work is now underway to find occupiers.

The Northern Echo reported the plans in August, when bosses said the development could have the potential to support as many as 500 jobs.

Speaking at the time, Chris McEwan, the council’s portfolio holder for economy and regeneration, told the Echo that the development would deliver jobs and the “spin-off benefits” of workers spending time, and money, in the town.

He added: “We need more Grade-A office accommodation and I’m a real advocate of having town centre-based jobs, because they help create a thriving town centre.

“This is about attracting new businesses but also recognising some of the big businesses around the town centre who want to remain there.”

The proposals come after the council oversaw the construction of nearby offices to retain hundreds of Department for Education staff in the town.

Authority chiefs see the new block as a key asset in strengthening the town’s existing commercial environment, highlighting its potential as a lever in attracting new operators from across the professional services, digital and creative sectors.

They say it will also mark another significant investment in Darlington’s Feethams area, which has seen a new cinema and restaurant complex complemented by a riverside walkway and multi-storey car park.

The scheme will be marketed by property consultancy Connect Property North- East, together with Cushman and Wakefield.

Andrew Wilkinson, director at Connect Property North-East, said: “Darlington has a strong, indigenous business community but lacks high-quality office space to retain its growing enterprises and attract new investment from outside the town.

“Feethams House will certainly address that shortage with a new standard of office accommodation.”

The Echo understands the office space will cover a number of storeys and be flexible and open plan, so areas can be divided to suit the needs of companies, depending on their differing sizes.

The council’s Department for Education scheme came after officials in the Government organisation deemed a former base home in Darlington’s Mowden Hall unfit for purpose back in 2012.

At the time, officials said they would see alternative accommodation in the North- East, with the Echo leading a campaign to retain the posts in Darlington.