THE dream of bringing World Heritage Site status to a stretch of historic North-East railway could take up to ten years to materialise, a council has warned.

Further details of the National Railway Museum’s plans to apply for the status for the Stockton to Darlington line emerged yesterday during a meeting of Darlington Borough Council.

The status is said to include the line’s original terminus at North Road Station, Darlington, sections of its route, and the line’s old workshops at Shildon, in County Durham. But officers moved to temper expectations about the project, which would have to be approved by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Loading article content

The meeting heard that it would take a lot of time and resources before the plan could come to fruition.

The council’s assistant director Ian Thompson said there were no funds to pay for a feasibility study into the project, adding: “As much as we would like to put this to the top of the pile of priorities, there is a lot going on at the moment.”

Councillor Fred Lawton, Liberal Democrat, said: “Officers are saying it is going to be very difficult, well we know it is going to be difficult. But we want it to go forward from this group.”

The discussion came during a council meeting into how to protect Darlington’s cultural and leisure facilities, such as the Dolphin Centre and Civic Theatre, from forthcoming budget cuts.

Suggestions will be put before the council’s cabinet. They include: working alongside other Tees Valley authorities to combine cultural and administrative resources; exploring a public subscription model, where residents subscribe to the facilities they use; and expanding the winter opening hours of the Head of Steam museum.

Meanwhile, poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, speaking before a reading in Darlington this week, encouraged residents to get creative to save the arts. She said: “Cuts are always bad, for everything, whether it be education, defence or the arts. But we have to find ways around it, as we did in the Eighties. The arts are very good at coming up with fresh solutions.

Perhaps when there is less money we can be at our most creative.”

■ A public meeting into the future of arts, heritage and leisure in Darlington was held at the Arts Centre last night. For a full report, see The Northern Echo tomorrow.