COUNCILLORS will meet next week to consider proposals for a multi-storey car park in Darlington town centre.

Darlington Borough Council wants to build a 650-space car park to offset the loss of 360 spaces caused by the new Department for Education (DfE) building and to accommodate an expected influx of vehicles visiting the proposed Feethams leisure complex.

The multi-storey would be built on the site of the existing 150-space pay and display car park at Beaumont Street and would incorporate new pedestrian links to the town centre.

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It is designed to be five storeys high, reducing to four levels at the point closest to the rear of Houndgate.

But although the car park sits outside the town centre conservation area, objections have been raised over the visual impact a 19-metre high building would have on the area.

Objectors are particularly concerned about the impact on Houndgate, a row of historic Georgian buildings which includes two Grade II-listed properties.

Concerns have also been raised over a perceived lack of evidence offered as to why the town centre needs such a large car park.

A report prepared for the council’s planning applications committee says that negations have taken place to try and minimise the building’s visual impact and that the car park would contribute to Darlington’s future economic growth.

It concludes: “Having carried out this balancing exercise it is considered the benefits of providing replacement parking to the town centre as a whole, including facilitating the new developments by the DfE and the cinema leisure complex, and helping to promote the level of footfall through the area in the interests of the town centre economy, outweigh any negative impacts to properties on the periphery of the development site.”

A lack of sufficient parking in the town centre has been an issue of concern for some traders in recent months and a multi-storey car park is a key element of the council’s parking strategy.

Councillors agreed last year to allocate funds to build a multi-storey car park and the Beaumont Street proposal is recommended for approval.

The planning committee meets on Wednesday to make its decision.