DARLINGTON Borough Council’s purchase of the town's landmark Northern Echo building on Priestgate is officially complete, with development work to create an adult skills centre set to begin.

The purchase, and future development of the ground floor of the building, on Priestgate, is being funded by the Towns Fund and Tees Valley Combined Authority.

The purchase of the building was announced earlier this year, but the sale has now completed and the keys have been formally handed over to the council. The Northern Echo will remain in its home of 152 years as an anchor tenant.

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To mark the milestone representatives from Darlington Borough Council, the Towns Fund board, and Darlington College gathered to celebrate.

Attention now turns to the future plans for the building, which include the refurbishment of the ground floor space into an Adult Skills Centre. Darlington College will have a strong presence in the building and will offer adults of all ages the opportunity to pick up new skills and qualifications, whether to enter a new industry, upskill in their existing role or pick up employment training to enter the workplace.

Plans for the upper floors of the building offer great potential and are still under discussion.

Angela Howey, chair of the Darlington Towns Fund Board, said: “This is a big day for the Towns Fund in Darlington, a purchase that secures the future of a key building in the town centre and the start of work to create a facility that will support adults of all ages to earn the skills needed in today’s working world.

“The aim of the Town’s Fund is to deliver sustainable economic regeneration – projects like this will do just that and help an under-utilised building become part of the beating heart of the town centre once more.

“We’ll be working closely with the council and Darlington College, as well as other partners, to design courses that meet the needs of local people and local employers, ensuring we have the skills base needed for the future.”

The Northern Echo: The Echo building under constructionThe Echo building under construction

Kate Roe, principal of Darlington College, said: “The chance to develop a dedicated adult skills centre in a really central, accessible location in a building everyone knows, is a great opportunity for the town.

“We want it to be full of life and purpose, supporting people gain new skills, or brush up old ones, that will help them get better jobs and careers. We also want employers to use the building and work in partnership to find their future talent in our local communities.”

Councillor Jonathan Dulston, deputy leader of the council, said: “We’re committed to the levelling-up agenda in Darlington and we’re determined that everyone should have the chance to reach their best potential.

“This is an exciting project – one of many planned under the Towns Fund – to breathe new life into key parts of the town centre and create new facilities such as this that will help Darlington and its residents continue to punch above our weight both regionally and nationally when competing for employment and economic opportunities."

Northern Echo managing director David Coates said: “I am delighted the building will be in such safe hands and will continue to play a vital role for the community, with the Echo itself remaining at the heart of the town.”

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