TOWN centres have to find a new, different future. The days of lots of long streets and malls filled with shops have gone, lost to the internet. Changes were coming before the pandemic, but the virus has accelerated the pace of change.

Most town centres are now far too big, so we have to repurpose the large buildings that were once occupied by department stores and office workers.

Part of the new future has to be people moving in and living in those buildings. These new inhabitants will then begin to support a new form of retail, of cafes, corner shops and perhaps trendy artisan shops like bakeries. They will also be the customers of leisure venues like cinemas.

But it is a chicken and egg situation. Which comes first: the new businesses, or the new residents?

In big cities, the change is already happening, but in smaller places, like Darlington, it needs a kickstart, so we hope the council’s acquisition of The Northern Echo’s press hall and offices will be the town centre’s first steps into the future – and we hope that we can be alongside it when those steps are taken.

READ MORE: Iconic Echo building sold for transformation into apartments