THE owner of the Cornmill shopping complex, in Darlington, confirmed last night that it had agreed terms to buy The Northern Echo’s town centre building.

In a move that could pave the way for an expansion of the town’s largest shopping centre, Moorfield Group said it had signed an option to buy the paper’s 40,000sq ft office in Priestgate.

Last night, Debenhams, which has been looking to move into the town for some time, said it was reviewing all potential sites.

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A spokeswoman confirmed: “We are continuing to look at opportunities in the Darlington area.”

The Priestgate offices of The Northern Echo have been the paper’s home since it was founded in 1869. The first copy was published on January 1, 1870, and the present building was built when the site was redeveloped in 1916.

David Coates, managing director of Newsquest North- East, owner of The Northern Echo and its sister papers, said last night: “It is essential for our newspapers that we retain a strong presence at the heart of Darlington and, if the Cornmill Centre extension goes ahead, we will be looking for new offices in the town our papers have served for nearly one-and-a-half centuries.”

Mark Holmes, of Moorfield, said: “This latest announcement continues our commitment to the Cornmill Shopping Centre and Darlington.

“We look forward to working with The Northern Echo in helping them in their relocation and to create more retail opportunities within the town centre. We are currently talking to a number of interested parties.”

Full story in today's Northern Echo