THE future of a number of specialist events designed to attract visitors to Darlington has been put into jeopardy after businesses rejected a chance to renew Distinct Darlington’s mandate.

Following a month-long vote to decide its future, businesses have narrowly rejected the opportunity to continue paying a levy to help fund the events.

Of the 253 votes cast there were 126 in favour and 127 against.

Since it was formed five years ago, the organisation has attracted thousands of people to the town centre through its annual Distinctly Delicious Festivals of Food, Darlington Fashion Weeks and a Classic Car Show.

Peter Bulmer, chairman of the board of Distinct Darlington, said: “This is a very disappointing result indeed, not just for Darlington BID, but for traders, residents and visitors alike as the town centre has now lost guaranteed investment.

“High streets around the country are facing very tough times and that’s why we need to do whatever we can to make town and city centres more attractive and create events and incentives to boost our local economy.

“The fact that Darlington will be one of the few places in the North East not to have a BID will leave us very vulnerable from the neighbouring retail competition.

“It’s such a shame that events like the food festival, the fashion show, the classic car show and the town’s Christmas lights will now not take place, not to mention the blow to the economy by the loss of initiatives like The Little Book of Offers.

“It is a very sad day which I feel will have real repercussions for the town centre.”

However, Councillor Bill Dixon, leader of Darlington Borough Council, remains bullish about the future of the town centre.

He said: “The BID is a private sector company with a board led by town centre businesses on behalf of the levy payers. The result was very close and the Council is disappointed that there will not be a second term for Distinct Darlington.

“Darlington remains a prosperous town and an attractive place to visit, with a wide range of shopping and leisure facilities. I am confident town centre businesses and stakeholders will continue to work together creatively and imaginatively, to respond to opportunities for the future.”