Multi-million-pound plans to transform Darlington railway station have won approval from council leaders - despite fears that a multi-storey car park could end up a "carbuncle".

The £114m Darlington station development, with new platforms, tracks, interchange, footbridge, concourse and multi-storey car park, has moved forward with approval of its first phase.

The final business case is to be sent by the Tees Valley Combined Authority to government for full funding, with construction expected to start later this year.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Jonathan Dulston. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.Cllr Jonathan Dulston. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.

Councillor Jonathan Dulston, leader of Darlington Borough Council, told a cabinet meeting: "This project will see investment of over £100m in Darlington station.

"It will lay the foundations that can enable development of rail services across the Tees Valley and help unlock the current capacity of the east coast mainline.

"Our railway connectivity has served us well, and it is fitting that this new station will be delivered in time for the bicentenary celebrations in 2025, and help support the successful economic growth we deliver.

"I am truly excited about the benefits this project will bring and I'm proud we will have a brand new station in 2025."

Read more: Work on new Darlington railway station to begin next summer

Cllr Alan Marshall, cabinet member for the economy, said: "The development of Darlington Bank Top station has local and national impacts.

"First impressions of the place are vital, and the improvements planned at all entrances to the station will create a sense of arrival and reinforce Darlington as a place that is delivering success.

"There is no doubt that a new station for 2025 will support our successful economic growth and benefit all our communities."

The Northern Echo: An illustration of the plans for Darlington railway station. Picture: Darlington Borough Council.An illustration of the plans for Darlington railway station. Picture: Darlington Borough Council.

He said it would help regeneration, jobs and tourism, improve connections and stimulate interest and opportunities for a thriving town, along with the forthcoming economic campus and other projects.

Cllr Andy Keir said: "Post-Covid, the rail leisure market has bounced back relatively strongly.

"And we will seize on this opportunity, ensuring links between the new station and the £35m investment at the Rail Heritage Quarter, where we are creating an exciting visitor attraction to draw national and international visitors."

Read more: Locomotion in Shildon to be extended - 'It's a no-brainer'

However Cllr Nigel Boddy raised concerns, saying: "Prince Charles's famous phrase 'monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend' springs to mind.

"Where is the economic case for a multi-storey car park... designed in a brutalist 1960s style which is entirely out of keeping with the architecture of our beautiful, wonderful Victorian station?

"It's an absolute masterpiece and you're proposing to slap a very ugly 1960s-style building on to the side of it."

The Northern Echo: Cllr Nigel Boddy. Picture: Darlington Borough Council.Cllr Nigel Boddy. Picture: Darlington Borough Council.

He also questioned whether the project would be complete on time and on budget: "We're going to invite railway enthusiasts from all over the world to come to this town in 2025.

"How do we know they're not going to be coming into a building site?"

Cllr Dulston replied: "We are optimistic that Darlington is growing. I'm really pleased that Darlington is absolutely being ambitious and is setting its stall out and preparing for what's coming in the future.

"I'm sorry that you don't share that ambition.

"We have a really positive story to tell in Darlington. The investment is absolutely coming. We know that. There's a confidence in the market that Darlington is firmly open for business."

Read more: Government Spending Review - £310m for Tees Valley transport

Dave Winstanley, group director of services, said English Heritage were involved in integrating "the old Victorian grandeur and new modern design".

He added: "We've been working with the designer and builder for a number of years now. I'm confident the project will be delivered on time and the estimated delivery time is September 2024.

"We will get the funding from government in September subject to a successful business case."

The Northern Echo: An illustration of the plans for Darlington railway station. Picture: Darlington Borough Council.An illustration of the plans for Darlington railway station. Picture: Darlington Borough Council.

Cllr Stephen Harker said: "First impressions are important. For some people what they're going to see an ugly multi-storey car park.

"I do implore you again to look at the design to make it better."

The cabinet agreed to support the submission of the business case, approve initial works and demolitions and release funding including £980,000 from the Towns Fund.

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