IT is extremely disappointing that Darlington councillors have felt they had no alternative but to vote for a historic railway pub to change its use after 190 years and become a convenience store.

True, the Fighting Cocks at Middleton St George is not going to be demolished, but equally it is not going to be able to tell its story of the first railway passengers as a Sainsbury’s.

Indeed, the council’s own conservation officer said that this connection will be “entirely removed and eroded”.

It is also true that the boarded-up pub appears to have struggled financially for the last decade, but there is a community group that would like to have had a shot at running it.

Perhaps councillors were bound by planning laws, and a fear of a developer taking them to appeal, but if Darlington is going to make the most of the railway bicentenary in four years time, it has to show vision, imagination and determination. Ironically, it is showing that in the town centre where it has bought a derelict kebab shop, but it hasn’t shown that in a country village over a boarded-up pub.

There aren’t many real links left to the railway’s earliest days, so those that survive – like this pub –have to be fought for and then cherished.

This decision, of course, comes hard on the heels of the major disappointment of losing Locomotion No 1 for much of the time.

If Darlington isn’t going to fight for its place in history, who will?