A CONSERVATION group has started discussions about how it could work together with other organisations to bring the riverfront setting at Middleton One Row back to its former glory.

Members of the Friends of the Conservation Area, covering the village and the neighbouring Middleton St George, have expressed concerns that large swathes of the banks lining the River Tees are becoming inaccessible because of erosion and overgrown invasive species.

The move to improve the riverbank at Middleton One Row comes as Darlington Borough Counci opens consultation on its Green Infrastructure Strategy for Darlington, which sets out what the council’s aims are for green spaces around the town, big and small, in the next 20 years.

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Mike McBride, chairman of the Friends group, said: “It [Middleton One Row] has gone away from us. In the past it was more accessible and you could see across the river - what we want is to bring it back to what it was only 20 years ago, without losing the natural aspect of it.

“We have a vision of pockets of natural areas and pockets where you can see through and walk through.”

The friends group met with officers from the council to discuss ways to improve the site and find out how the green infrastructure strategy could help its case for funding from outside bodies.

Although the council is creating the green infrastructure document, it will not have the funding and resources to carry out major work around the town itself and is instead hoping that the strategy will encourage outside organisations to invest in highlighted projects.

Rob George, parks and countryside development manager at the council, warned the group that they would need to carry out wildlife, bio-diversity and other feasibility studies before they could start doing bigger jobs at the site, and advised the group to start with smaller ‘easy hits’ to get the project off the ground.

He added: “If there’s a lot of will and drive in the community to move forward that is great. We will have to sit down with you and other partners to plan through what needs to be done.

“If there are specific things you want to do down there then you need to start putting that together.”

The Friends group agreed to start putting an action plan together and to apply for funding to start surveys and make initial improvements to the area.