PLANS for a £2m redevelopment to transform a Victorian indoor market into a Covent Garden-style destination have been unveiled.

The public are being asked for their views on the ambitious plans to revamp Darlington's covered market which could see a huge conservatory – a 'winter garden' – built to the rear, bars and restaurants introduced and later opening times.

The plans, which have been put together by Darlington-born architect Jonathan Thorns, who remembers visiting the cafe in the market every weekend as a child, include opening up the inside to give it a light and airy feel, restoring the glass around the outside after it was wood panelled in the 1970s, and creating offices on the upper floors to encourage new business.

He said the idea was that people could look in the front of the building off High Row and see all the way through to the garden at the back, making it more opening and inviting.

Owners Market Asset Management (MAM), which bought the market in 2017, said it was keen to champion the existing traders in the covered market as well as attracting new ones.

Its first option for redevelopment is to invest £2m for improvements including essential engineering and infrastructure, internal improvements to design, new lighting and flooring and creating a new retail space to sell fresh food, local produce and retail items from local suppliers.

Option two would see all of the first investment as well as an extra £1.5m to build a full-length winter garden feature facing out on to the market square, with floor-to-ceiling heritage glass. That would allow extra space for retail, leisure and community events.

Hayden Ferriby, business development director at MAM, said: "If people tell us they will use the option two development then we will do it. We just want to know what people think of our ideas, positive and negative, and what they would like to see here."

He said the building would be open later so workers in the town centre could shop or eat there after work and MAM would operate an area selling goods from the other market stalls if the traders did not want to stay late.

"The market needs to go back to what it used to be, a social hub," he said.

Ian Williams, Darlington Borough Council's director for economic growth, said: "Option One will see welcome and much-needed improvements while Option Two will see the covered market transformed into a centrepiece asset in our regeneration plans for the town centre - a wow factor for the town that will draw people in from far and wide."

He said he wanted as many people as possible to give their views as this would affect which option would be chosen. A poll opens on Darlington Markets official Facebook page today.

Chris McEwan, deputy leader of Darlington Council, said: "Our town centre, like many town centres, faces challenges. We have seen a fall in footfall. We have been working hard with MAM and others to bring forward plans to help our market and our town centre, that we all love, more sustainable and to revitalise it. The jewel in the crown is the covered market and I feel very excited to look at these plans."