AMBITIOUS plans to transform parts of Darlington have been given the green light thanks to £22.3m of government funding.

Darlington was one of 100 councils invited to submit a bid to the Town Fund, a national pot of £3.6bn to support regeneration projects.

The council will use the money to complement and extend regeneration schemes including North Road, the area between the town centre and the Head of Steam Museum, and Victoria Road, including around the train station and cattle market.

The next stage will be to develop detailed business plans for the projects and the proposals include;

• The urban regeneration of the Northgate area to create mixed housing and commercial space and improved public green space.

• The acquisition of key properties on Northgate, to protect heritage assets and create mixed use space.

• The creation of a linear park along the River Skerne.

• Investment in the Rail Heritage Quarter, including supporting the creation of a 26-mile walking and cycling route along the original Stockton and Darlington Railway line.

• Improvements in Victoria Road, in preparation for the redevelopment of the railway station and the development of the cattle mart site on Clifton Road.

• Investment in Skinnergate and The Yards, including shop front enhancements, residential development in Skinnergate and mixed-use facilities.

• The creation of adult learning space in the town centre and Darlington College.

Part of the funding is made up of a successful bid for £1m of Forward Funding – provided in September by the government to boost the country’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Northern Echo:

The plans include improvements to Darlington's historic Yards

Work is already under way on several projects supported by this funding including plans to light up the Clock Tower and other key features, new Wi-Fi across the town centre and securing properties in Northgate

Council leader Heather Scott said: “We’re delighted that the ambitious proposals put forward by the Town Deal Board have now been backed by ministers and are looking forward to starting work on bringing our vision for the town to life.

“There will be long-lasting benefits to key parts of the town, not just from an economic point of view but in terms of improving the public realm, securing heritage assets and creating central housing and business accommodation.

“The proposals link in with many other projects, some already complete or under way, and working together we can build a strong economic and sustainable future for Darlington offering opportunities for all.”

Angela Howey, chairman of the Town Deal Board, added: “This really is a once in a generation opportunity for Darlington to use this substantial funding to make significant changes in key areas."

“It’s also a chance to link up with other major projects, including Bank Top station redevelopment and the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 2025.

"Working together we can give the area a real facelift and provide an economic boost to the town.”

The funding was awarded after Darlington Borough Council – working with a dedicated Town Deal Board, made up of the leader of the council, senior figures from business, education, the voluntary sector and members of the Council management team – submitted its Town Investment Plan (TIP) to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Luke Hall said: “Towns across the country must be able to showcase their heritage and unlock their full economic potential.

“That is why I am delighted that Darlington has been awarded up to £22.3m to capitalise on its rich rail heritage, as well as to boost local skills and regenerate its town centre.

“The Towns Deal funding will allow Darlington to level up its visitor economy and bring opportunities and economic prosperity to its community.”

Commenting on the funding Tees Valley Mayor Houchen said: “I’m delighted that Darlington has been awarded over £22million to support their ambitious plans to boost redevelop and reinvigorate the town centre economy and support local jobs.

“It is also fantastic to see Darlington announced as one of the first seven places in the UK to get this important funding to make a real difference to the local area and local people. 

"This money is just the start and funding of up to £25m will soon follow for Thornaby, Redcar, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool.  This cash will allow them to kick off their own innovative plans to make every part of the Tees Valley an even better place to live and do business.

“As we continue to address the coronavirus pandemic this funding will give our areas the freedom to do what is needed so that we can continue to attract and retain the businesses our towns need to thrive.”

Peter Gibson MP for Darlington, said: “I am ecstatic that Darlington made it through to the next stage of funding for the Towns Fund and has been awarded £22.3 million of extra investment. This will now enable our town to implement the plans we have to transform our town centre, and ready ourselves for 2025, creating our rail heritage quarter, new linear park, additional housing in our Town Centre and more attractive corridors along Victoria Road and Northgate.

“Since being elected and sitting on the Towns Deal Board I have pressed Ministers on multiple occasions and raised our ambitions for our Towns Fund bid in the Chamber.

“This fund will start to transform Darlington and I am delighted to be working alongside Darlington Borough Council to help make Darlington a better and brighter place to be, for residents, businesses and visitors”.