A safe space in Darlington is today (September 1) celebrating its first year in operation with the news that it has helped more than 400 people in that time.

Number Forty has gained an invaluable reputation with Darlington partygoers for its late-night support for anyone who ever feels vulnerable or needs help on a night out in town.

Offering everything from a phone charger, water and spike test kits to a pair of flip-flops should your trusty heels break in town, the team also patrol the streets to monitor activity and help anyone who may need help from 9pm to 3am on Friday and Saturday nights.

Read more: New housing development in Darlington's Skinnergate delayed

The centre first opened its doors on September 1, 2022, where a plaque was unveiled by Cllr Jonathan Dulston and Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen.

Chris Knox and Lucy Hatch are the team behind the project that secured funding from the Home Office’s Violence Against Women and Girls strategy and is supported by the Darlington Safer Streets partnership, which includes Darlington Borough Council and Durham Constabulary.

Chris said: “We set up a multi-agency working group to discuss what we felt was needed in Darlington from the Home Office funding.

“As a group, we all sat down and felt that we should have some sort of hub where if you felt you were a vulnerable person you could come here for help.

“Most people know where we are now, as there are leaflets in pubs and others have been spreading the word. When people come in here, they know it will always be relatively quiet.

“If there is someone vulnerable, the bar staff, taxi marshalls and door staff know that Number Forty is here, and they can find us.”

The premises on Skinnergate has been kitted out with a storage room filled with supplies, cables for phone chargers, bathrooms and even a room that can be used by the police should a private discussion need to take place.

Chris added: “If people did not come to Number Forty, they would either go home or try and get home, get injured and up in A&E.

“This is servicing a need – and the need has always been there. We record what comes through the door and look through the common trends.

“We can then choose to launch campaigns based on those trends, we would look and see if we can impact these problems whether they were to do with public health or drugs.”

Darlington Borough Council have released ‘Number Forty – A year in numbers’ that reveals over 400 people have been helped by 29 volunteers who have signed up.

They have also handed out 100 pairs of flip flops and have given 35 people first aid which in turn has saved £11,000 in ambulance charges.

After its first successful year, The Home Office funding means Number Forty will be able to remain open until early 2024, with the opportunity to apply for further grants.

Darren Ellis, Community Safety Programme Manager at Darlington Borough Council, called the project “exciting”.

“Number Forty is preventative, it is reassuring, and this is a service which adds on to all the uniformed services.

“Empirical evidence from the public generally, and that is locally and nationally is that women and girls feel vulnerable – and perception is reality.

“If we do these surveys and national events such as what happened to Sarah Everard has a negative impact on people's confidence then it is right that we respond to that.”

Cllr Amanda Riley, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for stronger communities, said: “It’s been a brilliant first year for Number Forty and it has been a great addition to nightlife in the town.

“I want to thank all the volunteers who have made it possible and urge anyone who thinks they could help out to get in touch so this amazing service can go from strength to strength.”

Cllr Jonathan Dulston, Leader of the Darlington Conservatives, praised the work of volunteers as Number Forty a year after he helped unveil a plaque displayed in the space.

“I have been overwhelmed by the support we have had from volunteers to make this project possible,” he said.

“It has also been really refreshing to hear of some stories of when people have been along to use the service – had it not been there these people may have been put in some challenging situations.”

He added: “I hope Number Forty goes from strength to strength and we see the same levels of volunteer engagement that we have done already, and people will continue to give their time to volunteer for the community.”

The Northern Echo: Cllr Jonathan Dulston and Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen in September 2022, when the space opened.Cllr Jonathan Dulston and Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen in September 2022, when the space opened. (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen has also recognised the great success of the space.

She said: “The opening of Number Forty a year ago was a significant step forward in our aim to make Darlington as safe as possible for everyone, particularly women and girls.

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“Over the last year, we have worked hard as a partnership to help keep people safe whilst they enjoy our night-time economy, helping to tackle and deter crimes.

“The feedback we’ve had from people who have utilised the Number Forty hub has been extremely positive.

“The fact we have been able to help over 400 people already is a huge achievement in the success of the project and proves that with the correct tools and relationships, we can create something that really works.

“I look forward to seeing the continued success of Number Forty and hope that this can continue long into the future to create a safer nighttime economy for Darlington.”