A COUNCIL must pay back more than £1.7m of European funding used to build a classy office complex which will now be used by Government workers.

Feethams House, the new £8.46m five-storey Grade A office complex in the heart of Darlington, was partly built with money from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Read more: 'Waste of time': Residents respond to A68 Darlington roundabout plans

It had been intended for “high quality office accommodation for small and medium enterprises (SME) and general business use”.

The ERDF contributed £1.71m – specifically for such office accommodation – and the building was completed in May 2020.

But last March, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Treasury and other Government departments’ move to Darlington.

It was planned to bring 750 jobs to the town from three departments, but a new council report projects more than 1,500 civil service jobs by 2024-5.

The Treasury North Campus was described as a “game-changer” for levelling up the North-east by Darlington MP Peter Gibson.

Feethams House was earmarked as the government departments’ temporary home.

This means it no longer meets the conditions of the European funding for small and medium-sized business offices, so the £1.7m has to be paid back.

A Darlington Borough Council report says the Treasury and other departments “will require the whole building”.

It states: “The funding received through ERDF will need to be repaid as the funding was specifically for the provision of office accommodation for SMEs.

“I has now been confirmed that Government are able to offer repayment over a three-year term.”

At a cabinet meeting this week, council leaders agreed to repay the £1.7m ERDF contribution.

This was recommended to help the Government departments’ move, promote development and “significant economic growth opportunities for the borough and the Tees Valley”, and comply with the grant funding.

Instead, the money will come from the council’s economic growth investment fund, to be repaid from Feethams House rental income in three years.

The cash may still come back to Darlington in the future.

The report says the Government is considering requests to invest around £4.5m ERDF money in the Tees Valley Business Growth Fund, supporting up to 200 businesses and creating about 200 new jobs.

“Around £1m of ERDF will be earmarked for Darlington businesses if there is sufficient demand,” the report states.

It adds a “full and comprehensive review” is underway for the government departments’ permanent location.

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated Darlington Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054