"WE can't have a successful town centre without people, and we can't have people without housing."

This analysis from Ian Williams, director of economic growth at Darlington Borough Council, seems an obvious one.

But with little over 200 residential properties in the town centre, the council has highlighted Crown Street as an area where this number can grow.

Their town centre strategy says the central location and scale of the area presents "opportunity for a significant mix of housing", as well as recognition that the quality of some vacant buildings has deteriorated, and retail investment is needed.

"It is not just about building loads of properties on an empty car park," adds Mark Ladyman, assistant director of economic growth.

"It is about developing a place that attracts people to live there. Crown Street has some fantastic historic buildings."

Perhaps the most significant, or the one attracting the most feeling, is the library. The council's decision to close it and subsequent u-turn has been well documented, but for now, it remains part of the long-term vision.

The Northern Echo:

"The library will always be a library, but it might well be a different type of library as modern times change," says Mr Ladyman.

Cllr Paul Howell, cabinet member for leisure and local environment, who was a prominent campaigner trying to save Crown Street Library, says he was delighted at the previous authority's "change of heart".

"We want to provide an outstanding library, in an outstanding building, offering an outstanding service.

"We couldn't see an appropriate service working in the Dolphin Centre. In some places where it has worked, they are very separate, but not in the Dolphin Centre.

"We've got to look at using tech to create a better service and welcome students and young people, but we also have to welcome the people who have always used the library to read books.

"If you get the right type of housing around Crown Street, it could really help footfall in the town centre. The one important thing we must get right is not having the different parts of the town centre feel like individual quarters, they must all connect to each other."

For more information on Darlington's town centre strategy,

click here
  • See tomorrow's Northern Echo for a look at the plans for Northgate