PLANS to hold an annual fun-filled Christmas extravaganza in Darlington town centre have been announced following successful festive events last year.

Darlington Borough Council plan to introduce a family fun day on a Sunday leading up to the festive season, which will include the town's Christmas lights switch on.

The authority has made the decision after thousands of visitors were attracted to Darlington town centre for a number of events in a fun packed run-up to Christmas last year.

The first ever Ice Sculpture Trail along with a new festive shop window competition and a search for the Elf event helped drive up the numbers of visitors.

Alongside the new events, the traditional town centre lights switch on saw thousands of people flock to the market square for an evening of festive fun.

A full programme of free festive family fun was on offer from the Cornmill and Queen Street shopping centres as well as extra Christmas market stalls.

In addition, a new shopping area, The Imperial Quarter, was launched in the town, helping to create a new identity for distinct areas of the centre.

Councillor Chris McEwan, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for economy and regeneration said: “Our new town centre partnership and events team has worked with retailers across the town centre, the markets team and with the popular LoveDarlo Facebook page, to devise and promote a full programme of festive events.

"These have helped to increase the numbers of potential customers coming to the town centre in the run up to Christmas. In addition, our parking offers meant that there was free parking after 3pm every day of the week.

“We are fully aware of the challenges facing local and national retailers and feel that this programme of festive events has helped to give a competitive edge to shopping in the town.”

Last week, the council unveiled a new vision which will seek to develop Darlington’s unique selling points and establish new “anchors” such as a revitalised indoor market and invest in heritage assets like the historic yards and wynds.

Other key objectives include reducing the area of the town centre devoted to shops and transforming empty shops and derelict pieces of land with sustainable uses such as residential accommodation.