AN ambitious scheme to create an international visitor attraction and museum before 2025 in a town that has never been synonymous with tourism looks set to move a major step forward next week.

Darlington Borough Council’s leading members will consider approving£20m be released from Tees Valley Combined Authority, subject to a final business case being approved for the Darlington Rail Heritage Quarter.

Based at the Head of Steam railway museum site off North Road, it is hoped the quarter will lead to Darlington being “recognised as the world’s most historic railway town” play a central role in the Stockton and Darlington Railway’s bicentennial celebrations.

The council’s leader, Councillor Heather Scott said the raft of measures that the council’s cabinet would consider approving was “just the beginning” of a programme that would aim to harness the enthusiasm, resources and skills of the borough’s industry and community.

She said: “We have got to do everything we can to make the celebrations an amazing result for the area. If you are not ambitious nothing happens. I think Darlington is very well placed to achieve the ambitions we have.”

A report to the cabinet indicates the scale of the ambition with a proposal to delegate authority to officers to negotiate and agree terms to buy properties with a value of up to £1m to enable the scheme to proceed.

The report states it is hoped the quarter will reveal the story of Darlington’s communities “that saw an opportunity and seized it, connecting and transforming the world in the process” and will feature an “immersive” ride and a play park.

A council spokesman said: “Our unique and authentic heritage will be reimagined with a strong narrative, varied interpretation, reimagined spaces and new experiences to engage a wider audience, including local residents, businesses and visitors from around the globe.

“This site will act as a catalyst for heritage-led regeneration and social cohesion, empowering our communities and businesses to be part of the next transformational change.”

To realise the ambition, the project will focus on revealing and conserving, heritage on site, retaining live engineering, using past, current and future innovation, creating bespoke play experiences, developing an events and activity programme and providing an educational programme.

It is hoped the site will act as a catalyst for economic growth by attracting local, national and international visitors, investment and spend, and creating employment and enterprise opportunities for the local community.