A TOWN centre shop has reopened with a plea to improve high street shopping nine months after fire forced it to close.

Skinnergate News in Darlington town centre reopened earlier this week following the blaze which happened just a few days after a major fire broke out in the roof of the former St T’s Home Shop, also on Skinnergate and just yards away from the newsagents.

Malcolm and Sharon Dobson, the shop's owners, said CCTV footage showed the fire started from a faulty ice cream freezer and the last nine months had been "a bit of a nightmare", but they are now hoping to bring back loyal customers and attract new ones.

But they have also used the reopening to call on Darlington Borough Council to do more to attract people to the town centre, and particularly Skinnergate.

"It is so quiet now," said Mr Dobson.

The Northern Echo:

"We have noticed a big difference – the main thing for me would be to sort the parking out. Skinnergate should be like Grange Road and there should be on-street parking.

"Hopefully once word gets out that we are open people will start coming back up."

Darlington Borough Council's place scrutiny committee are to discuss the future of the town centre next week, with particular focus on Skinnergate.

The changes proposed include offering some space for residential development, general improvements to physical appearances, and reviewing accessibility to Skinnergate from Duke Street and High Row.

The Northern Echo:

In November, Durham Police confirmed a man who was rescued from the early morning St T's fire in Skinnergate was still suffering from the effects of his injures and they closed the investigation into the blaze.

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service said the man was rescued "in the nick of time" as the building was collapsing.

Witnesses gathered to see firefighters tackling the blaze, which started at around 4am, and they reported hearing glass shattering and the roof of the building coming down, as well as thick black smoke blowing across the town.

Temporary accommodation was also arranged for four people and a dog.

Charity Age UK revealed it had lost seven months of donations as a result of the fire.