REWIND a decade. The Northgate area of Darlington was subject to major development plans that had reached an advanced stage.

Then came the recession. And ten years on, whilst some properties remain, the quality of land and buildings has further deteriorated.

The closure of Marks and Spencer in 2018 was arguably the biggest blow to Northgate and the town centre as a whole, leaving tens of thousands of square feet of retail space unoccupied.

So how does Northgate get back on track?

Ian Williams, director of growth at Darlington Borough Council, wants to see the area as a "vibrant, low cost. convenience type area".

"There are certain key buildings we would like to find use for, and we are working hard to do that," he says.

"We think there is something lacking in Darlington, and we believe inside the ring road we need some more convenience shopping. There are some redundant buildings in the Commercial Street and Queen Street area as well, and we need to work with the private sector to explore the opportunities that area provides."

The council's town centre strategy accepts, despite recent store openings, Northgate feels "run down and unwelcoming" due to partial derelict and empty properties.

Initial work will begin on addressing the derelict Trinity Church and empty night club on Commercial Street.

But what about the empty M&S building? The council suggests it could be demolished to make way for 100 apartments, but they believe it would be more "practical and deliverable" to attract an additional discount retailer.

Mr Williams adds: "Food convenience shopping in the heart of the town would be catalytic because it is proven that it drags people in. There's a lot that can go wrong but we believe it is the right approach.

"There's a demand for this type of retail – it is not all about high end Frasers – there's a mix in Darlington that we require.

"We're not going to let buildings just sit and sit for years to come."

For more information on Darlington Borough Council's town centre strategy, visit