UNCERTAINTY surrounds the future of Darlington's Binns store after the owners put the building up for sale.

Last August, Darlington Borough Council secured a deal with bosses at House of Fraser and the owners of the Binns building on High Row to keep the store open for the next 12 to 18 months.

With that agreement coming to an end, the owners have instructed Colliers International to market the building to potential investors, either as separate retail units or the entire building.

The Northern Echo understands House of Fraser has no immediate intention to close their Darlington store, but the building's owners have decided to put it on the market as a "safety net" in case a new agreement can't be reached, and in case bosses at the department store, which is now owned by Mike Ashley's Sports Direct, have a change of plan.

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman said it was "deeply concerning" to see the building up for sale, and said it was "critical" the council did everything it could to keep the "anchor" store open.

She added: "It is critical for the future of the town centre - last time the council did everything they could and I urge them to do the same this time.

"We knew last year the agreement wasn't a long term solution, and I have always been troubled by Mike Ashley's approach to this."

A Colliers brochure describes the site as offering "prominent retail and leisure opportunities within a landmark building over five floors."

It adds: "Whilst still currently trading as House of Fraser, interest is sought in opportunities to occupy either the whole or parts of the building on a leasehold basis.

"Consideration will also be given to a sale of the building as a whole to an owner-occupier."

Chris McEwan, deputy leader of the Labour group on Darlington Borough Council, added: "Binns remains a critical part of the town centre and I would expect the new administration to be all over this issue.

"We must maintain a strong retail offering and House of Fraser is a highly important part of that – I will be watching this with interest."

Mr Ashley saved about 80 per cent of House of Fraser stores as part of his £90m rescue deal, which saw him buy the department store just over an hour after it had plunged into administration.