AN eyesore building which has been home to a string of nightclubs for generations of revellers is to be bulldozed as part of a masterplan to regenerate a town centre.

Darlington Borough Council has this week approved its own plan to raze the 1970s-built venue formerly known as Plastered Parrot, Oscar’s, Mr Bojangles, Cactus Jacks, Zhivagos, The Lounge, Buffalo Joe’s and Audio, to the ground.

While the premises has seen millions of pounds of investment since being launched as Zhivagos in 1988, the authority, which bought the derelict Commercial Street building earlier this year, said demolishing it had become urgent as it presented numerous health and safety risks.

The council said despite attempting to secure the building, which is behind Boots’ Northgate branch, it had become a magnet for antisocial behaviour and it was further damaged in October when arsonists set fire to it. Regeneration of the Northgate area of the town centre as vital following Marks and Spencer moving out of its 25,000sq ft store at the North entrance of the town centre in 2018.

Last year, a report on the council’s strategy to revamp the area stated while some store openings in Northgate had helped increase consumer activity in the area, derelict and empty properties portrayed “an unwelcoming vista to local shoppers and visitors when accessing the town from this gateway”. The report concluded the area was particularly suitable for the creation of a convenience store, or if that was not achievable, a mixed commercial and residential development. It is hoped potential schemes will provide a more secure future for the site, which has has been thrown into uncertainty on numerous occasions over the past three decades. In 1989 after the original Zhivagos club went into receivership it led to 30 jobs being lost at building firm Armstrong Brennan.

Councillor Alan Marshall, the council’s economy portfolio holder, said the site would become linked to that of the former Darlington Congregational Bicentenary Memorial Church to make a significant area ready for regeneration, a project for which the authority will receive millions of pounds from the Government. He said: “The intention has always been to drop the building and make that whole area ready for regeneration. There’s no firm plans yet for the site, but clearing the area ready for redevelopment is part of our town centre strategy.”

The council had initially hoped it could attract Lidl to open a supermarket on the site, but following a scheme to build a Lidl, Home Bargains and Starbucks outlets at Faverdale Industrial Estate, it is thought unlikely that the firm would want to launch a town centre store in the near future.

Cllr Marshall said: “What we would like to do is get some sort of large store at that end to balance the town centre up a bit. That’s still part of the strategy, which we are looking at to see how we can refresh it and bring it into a post-Covid world.”

Park East councillor Cyndi Hughes, whose ward includes the former nightclub site, welcomed the authority’s move to demolish the building, saying it was long overdue.

She said: “This action opens up the possibility of investment. Whatever the area becomes I hope it attracts more people into the town.”