THE time is right to resolve a long-standing question over whether Darlington town centre should have a bus station, a meeting has heard.

Darlington Borough Council opposition leader Councillor Stephen Harker told the authority’s cabinet that the issue which has been repeatedly raised since the demolition of the town’s depot in 2009 should be examined as part of a refreshed vision for the town centre.

Supporters of creating a bus station argue that buses are an unwelcome danger in the largely pedestrianised town centre and say the congestion at the bus stops, from both buses on the road and would-be passengers on the pavement, make those parts of the town crowded, noisy and unsightly.

Opponents point to a survey of residents that Arriva conducted in 2013 which saw responses focus on the frequency of buses and stop locations rather than a bus station.

Speaking as the cabinet considered responses from a public consultation on the draft Darlington Town Centre Strategy, the Labour group leader accused the ruling Conservatives of breaking their local election manifesto pledge to review the need for a bus station in the town centre.

Cllr Harker said as the strategy proposed creating strategic sites in Darlington Town Centre, such as Victorian Indoor Market, Skinnergate and the Yards and Wynds, the Northgate area and the Crown Street area, it would be timely to also consider the bus station issue.

He said: “It is an issue that will always be there until we review the need for a bus station.”

Conservative members denied failing to fulfill their pledge.

His successor as the council’s leader, Councillor Heather Scott replied that the bus station question had been raised “quite regularly” during while Labour were in power. She said: “It can be looked at, but at the end of the day the bus station needs to be something that the bus companies will actually use. We do know it is part of the Tees Valley strategy for transport - we are looking at buses as part of that. So that is something that we may look at as we get further into that.

“It is a hot potato, lots of people do request it. It’s the location of the bus station and things like that we do need to look at. It’s something we need to investigate. Whilst it did come up in some of the responses, I don’t think when the responses were collated it came very high up the agenda.”

Green Party leader Councillor Matthew Snedker said of the 474 replies to the consultation only 14 had mentioned a bus station.

The council’s director of economic growth Ian Williams said the consultation had included more than 1,000 suggestions, including demolishing landmark buildings to make way for a bus station.

He added: “There is no compelling evidence to suggest that residents of Darlington are overwhelmingly in support of a bus station.”