FOR a place described as "the heart of the town", it would appear Skinnergate needs some help to get its blood flowing.

Darlington Borough Council's town centre strategy includes plans to introduce more mixed use buildings. Put simply, this means keeping some shops but increasing the number of homes, with the hope of increasing the number of people using the town centre as a result.

The Northern Echo:

It also includes general improvements to how the area looks, with plans to improve shop fronts, 'edgy' lighting and access points.

But the council say it is more than just TLC - they want "renewed energy and effort" in Skinnergate.

Mark Ladyman, assistant director of economic growth, says: "Skinnergate has survived some real challenges, but we definitely think it needs an update.

"We see it as a real positive area and somewhere that nowhere else in the Tees Valley or perhaps even in the North.

"In the past there has been some work, but we need to up our game."

He highlights the celebrations of the bicentenary of the Stockton and Darlington railway in 2025 and the increased visitors to the Head of Steam Railway Museum that he hopes Skinnergate can eventually take advantage of.

But what about before then? That's what Louise and Malcolm Dobson, of Skinnergate News, want to know.

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"I think that the idea of the housing is a good idea as it will bring more people into the street and for a business like the newsagents and the cafe, it would mean more local shoppers.

"But I also wonder will we be able to survive the length of time it will take to go forward with all of this? With regards to the retail side I feel we need to try and concentrate on day time trade.

"I noticed the newest building is being converted into an Indian restaurant. If this is only open at night it doesn’t do much for us during the day.

"I suppose we would also go back to the old one of allowing some sort of short stay parking on Skinnergate but that’s been going on for too long so probably not likely."

Cllr Alan Marshall, cabinet member for economy and regeneration, "The yards, between Skinnergate and High Row, we need to do some work to enhance them because they are real connecting corridors – it just brings the footfall right the way through.

"We've also talked to a local artist who has real ideas about softening the impact, making it more attractive, so we're looking at all the opportunities that are there

If Skinnergate really is to be the "heart of the town", it needs some urgent CPR.

For more information on Darlington's town centre strategy,

click here


  • See tomorrow's Northern Echo for a look at the plans for Crown Street