PERMISSION is being sought to transform The Northern Echo’s historic headquarters into an apartment block containing 52 residences.

Nestled in the heart of Darlington’s town centre, the current building on Priestgate opened in 1917 and has been home to generations of newspaper workers ever since.

The iconic property once housed a significant workforce, with hundreds of employees at the bustling site when printing was carried out in-house.

Changes to the journalism industry, coupled with a rise in digital operations, have led to parts of the building becoming unoccupied and the office block now housing a fraction of the numbers who once worked on Priestgate.

To allow staff to be moved to a more modern and fitting location, the property was put on the market several years ago.

NEWSPAPER HISTORY: How the 'Priestgate palace' once looked

Property developers Xusa, led by North-East man Alex Impey, have now expressed an interest in the building.

The building has not yet been sold and negotiations are on-going but in December, an application was submitted to Darlington Borough Council’s planning department on behalf of the firm seeking permission for a change of its use.

A report included in the application suggested that the four-storey building could eventually become a residential development housing 52 one and two bedroomed apartments on the second, third and fourth floors. If the plans go ahead, the ground floor would be given over to retail space.

A memorial to the Northern Echo workers who lost their lives during WWI will remain undisturbed by the redevelopment proposals contained within the application.

However, the report from Prism Planning says that “more detailed consideration of its long-term setting will be addressed in a later planning application relating to that particular part of the building.”

FLOOR PLANS: How the apartments could be laid out

The sale of the building would have to be completed and more detailed planning permissions sought before the ambitious development could progress.

David Coates, regional managing director of Newsquest Yorkshire and North-East, said: “While we are very supportive of the planning application, The Northern Echo building has not yet been sold.

“We’ve been here before and were disappointed when the proposed sale fell through. Hopefully this time we will see it through to completion and we’ll be able to move into accommodation that’s more befitting a modern digital marketing services business.”