FEARS have been voiced about Darlington’s hospitality sector following the decision to keep the town under Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions.

Darlington Borough Council leader Heather Scott said she was “extremely disappointed” by the decision, while the town’s MP Peter Gibson said he had been lobbying for the borough’s 106,000 residents to be moved into Tier 2.

And the authority’s Labour opposition leader, Councillor Stephen Harker, said it was clear businesses in Tier 3 areas needed to be given extra support to that being given to those in Tier 2 areas.

According to government data, Darlington had 211 cases in the seven days to December 11, with a rolling rate of 197.6 per 100,000 people.

That rolling rate is above the UK average and higher than that of the neighbouring local authorities of North Yorkshire at 99.8 per 100,000, Stockton at 169.8 per 100,000, and County Durham at 154.7 per 100,000.

However, the rate of infection has been declining in the borough.

Cllr Scott said she was particularly disappointed by the Government’s decision because of the effect it would have on the hospitality industry.

She said: “We have just got to encourage people to work hard to make sure we can get into Tier 2 as soon as possible.”

When asked if she thought it was fair that Darlington appeared to have been grouped with other Tees Valley areas which had far higher infection rates, she said: “I would have thought because we are close to North Yorkshire, which is Tier 2, that might have helped us.”

Darlington MP Peter Gibson said: “Naturally I am disappointed that we are remaining in Tier 3 as I know how keen our hospitality businesses are to be open at this important time of year, and I have been pressing the case for us to move.

“Whilst great strides have been made to drive the infection rate down our local hospitalisations are up. I would encourage everyone who is asymptomatic to get tested to help drive infections down further.”

Cllr Harker said he understood the frustration for traders in the borough and said businesses in Tier 3 areas needed to be given extra support to that being given to those in Tier 2 areas.

He said: “There is a lot of movement of people because of work in the Tees Valley, but the same is true, perhaps to a lesser extent, for North Yorkshire. It is a difficult decision if you are looking at relatively small geographical areas where the measurement differ about how you manage it.

“If it was me making the decision, I would be cautious about relaxing the rules. Until the whole of the Tees Valley is in a better position in terms of cases being found I think it probably is the right decision to remain in Tier 3.”