WELL the national mood was briefly lifted by sport over the summer, we all believed, we all watched, we all paced the floor, we all had a glorious time when we didn’t think about politics, Brexit, how dreadful the world generally is as football was coming home but swerved, stuttered and decided on a long weekend in Croatia instead.

Shops closed early having sold out of waistcoats, towns came to standstill and no-one minded. However, come the Thursday after and it all came crashing back in again. As if the hungover nation didn’t feel bad enough, the Government weighed in with the Brexit white paper and Donald Trump arrived.

True to form this summer, there were also a number of retail results predicting further gloom, interestingly not just for the high street this time but interestingly for out of town retailers and an online store as well.

Darlington Council also approved a major review of its town centre masterplan including putting the option on the table of shrinking the retail building stock. Whilst many have been positive about the move to do something other, perhaps predictable commentators feel it is re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. A somewhat negative and short sighted view.

Retail is under pressure at the moment and that is most apparent in our town centres, Darlington suffering more than most. There are many reasons for the decline and it is a multi faceted, sophisticated problem which will take a similar solution. We have the structure of a great town centre which with the right plan will thrive. However, rushing in without assessing the market and taking advice may lead to doing the wrong thing which would be just as damaging as inaction.

Therefore, Chamber members support Darlington Council’s approach to take stock and re-visit the existing masterplan rather than a knee-jerk reaction which will change nothing long term. Fundamental change is required and a plan which will take the town well into the middle of the Century. The council has a role to play, so do the businesses who need to step up to the plate.

The public also have a role to play and must fundamentally decide if they want physical retail in the town centre and act accordingly in supporting one.

If all those strands come together it will produce a town centre to be proud of and give us something to cheer about again.

Rachel Anderson is assistant director of policy at North East England Chamber of Commerce.