A DISUSED 1970s office block close to Darlington's town centre will be transformed into a Hilton by Hampton hotel, according to planning documents approved recently.  

The prestigious brand is linked to plans to regenerate Northgate House on St Augustine's Way into a 129-bedroom hotel.

Planning documents outline proposals to regenerate the vacant office block and create a new place to stay for “tourists and business visitors to Darlington town centre.”

A report submitted to Darlington Borough Council as part of the planning process says that the target market is “for customers who will require quick and easy access to the town centre”.

It goes on to say: “The application proposals seek to re-use and regenerate this prominent, vacant building in order to create a 129 bedroom hotel to be operated by Hampton by Hilton brand.

“The ground floor commercial units will remain as existing, whilst the car parking on the first floor will be available as private parking for staff and/or guests and is important to the operation of the business as a hotel.

“Reception and dining areas will be located on the second floor whilst the remainder of the building will be converted into bedrooms, with a tenth floor added to the northern tower in order to accommodate additional bedrooms.”

Agents acting on behalf of the planning applicant made visits to the town and considered other properties – including the former Audio nightclub on Commercial Street and No 1 Skinnergate - before the decision was made to invest in Northgate House on St Augustine’s Way.

Planning consent to transform the vacant office block into a hotel was initially granted in January 2016 but it is a revised application that has now been approved, with no objections being lodged as a result of consultation exercises conducted by Darlington Borough Council.

The decision to approve the plans was made using delegated powers, meaning that planning officers could determine the outcome without the requirement to put the application before the council’s planning committee.

A report prepared on the application by officers states that the core strategy for Darlington is to support the “sustainable growth of tourism” in Darlington by encouraging a range of visitor accommodation in appropriate locations.

It goes on to say that the visual appearance of the existing building could improve as a result of the new development, adding: “The 1970s office building is substantial in scale and massing and is in need of refurbishment.

“Its vacant occupation and general lack of investment in maintenance detract from the heritage assets close to it.

“Subject to the agreement of suitable external materials and colours, the alterations either individually or cumulatively would not impact on the setting of the listed buildings or the conservation area close to it.

“The proposed physical improvements to this building, particularly at ground floor/street level, would improve the ‘gateway’ frontage and setting of the Northgate Conservation Area.

“Also the re-use of the building as a hotel should improve footfall along this important thoroughfare within the conservation area and act as a catalyst to regeneration of the properties along Northgate.”

A letter from the council to Richard Stooke, who submitted the planning application, states that work on the development should be commenced within three years and that a noise impact assessment should be submitted and approved prior to the commencement.

The Northern Echo has approached Darlington Borough Council for comment.