A VISION has been unveiled to recreate “the feel of parts of Amsterdam, Borough Market and York’s historic Shambles” street at the heart of a North-East town.

The first phase of Darlington Borough Council’s masterplan to attract more visitors to spend more time in the struggling town centre will see some of its historic alleyways given a major facelift in the coming months and sweeping changes to lighting across the area.

The blueprint, the first stage of which is scheduled to be completed by the end of March, also features securing properties in Northgate and a proposal to increase wifi across the central area, despite concerns the technology could be defunct in a few years.

A meeting of the authority’s economy and resources committee heard it was hoped the initial part of the scheme was being funded with a £1m government grant to boost the country’s recovery from the Covid-19.

Councillors were told the authority was employing a landscape architect to look at buildings in Clarks and Buckton’s yards and developing simple and classic designs for each one, such as a full shop front changes, to build on the heritage already there.

Images shown to members illustrated common themes running through each of the yards, with a green wall in Buckton’s and external cafe seating alongside improved entrances from Skinnergate and High Row.

The meeting heard the council aimed to return the yards to their “former glory”, and dispel negative perceptions about them after getting listed building and planning consent in January to start work. Added illuminations will see a mixture of low and high level lighting picking out key features of the landmark clock tower and an option to introduce colour to mark special events, as well as low level lighting around the Pease statue, library, planters and benches.

Councillors welcomed the plans but raised concerns that extra greenery and planters in the town centre could lead to a significant amount of extra jobs and that extra CCTV was needed in the area.

Councillor Paul Crudass said: “In the past the council has not been very good at providing ongoing care of these things. We have loads of fountains and gardens around the town that have suffered over the years because of lack of maintenance.”