FREE public Wi-Fi has been launched across a town centre in a bid to encourage people to spend more time there.

Shoppers and visitors in Darlington can now access Wi-Fi as part of the town centre's ongoing development through the Towns Fund, which is funded by the Government.

Councillor Heather Scott, leader of the council, said: “We hope that the installation of Wi-Fi will increase footfall and encourage people to spend more time here.

"The initiative reflects our commitment to enhancing Darlington through our Towns Fund which looks to invest in the town centre.”

Angela Howey, towns board chair, said: “It’s fantastic we have been able to roll out this service for the people and businesses of Darlington. The Towns Fund is enhancing the town in innumerable ways and I’m incredibly proud to be part of the team.”

Councillor Alan Marshall,cabinet member for economy, said: “The town is a great destination for tourists thanks to its variety of independent shops and cafes so being able to offer free internet connectivity across the town centre will really enhance the experience of visitors and residents alike.”

In time, it is hoped the service will provide another way for organisations to connect with customers, with plans for businesses to be able to promote special offers and promotions on the sign-up page.

Salah Asserha, of Falafel Fella in Clark’s Yard, was among the traders to welcome the development.

He said: “Users will be able to enjoy free browsing and will not have to use their own mobile data which is fantastic. I welcome the investment to the town.”

Claire Bulman, manager at Waterstones in the Cornmill Centre, said: “It’s great that visitors have access to complimentary Wi-Fi and are able to stay connected if they want to. Darlington is a wonderful place to live, work and visit and we look forward to seeing visitors in our café and store.”

Visitors can log on to the ‘Darlington Free Wi-Fi’ via a click through process and will be connected automatically.