Politicians have been arguing about the cause of the decline of one of the main roads into Darlington for weeks. Tom Burgess was invited to have a walk along North Road with the town MP Peter Gibson to see what can be improved.

An overcast day on the main street into Darlington. I watch a police car cruise past me as I park on Henry Street. Dirty pavements, cracked paintwork and litter are an established feature of the historic road I have come to visit.

In the last few weeks Peter Gibson, the Conservative MP for Darlington, has been arguing with town councillors and the leader of the Labour Council over the state of North Road. Everyone wants to fix the problem but no action is being taken, some blame the government cutting council funding, others point to the police and a few want residents to take more pride in the area.

Peter arrives not long after me and he soon gets talking to the manager at Leada Autoparts. He explains to the workers that we plan on going for a walk along the road that has been branded the "forgotten ward of Darlington". The manager quips that some work might need to be done on the chipped paintwork of their building. 

The Northern Echo: A walk along North Road with Peter Gibson

As we set off to walk along the street Peter explains that he believes the council is not doing enough for the ward. He thinks that small changes could make a big difference for North Road. He points to a dog poo on the pavement that we walk past within the first 100m of the walk.

"Where is the sense of pride in the area? A lot of people come into town this way, it should be a gateway into Darlington. Everyone tells me that people have forgotten about this part of town," he says.

"I get told that the West End gets all the money and the East side of Darlington doesn't. I know why people say that. It looks smart and I think that's partly because the ward councillors are more engaged."

As we make our way down the street, heading out of town, we come across a particularly badly surfaced road. Peter points out that the only part of the road which would technically need to be fixed was the bit with water gathering in it, but he acknowledges that it all needs work.

The Northern Echo: Badly surfaced street off North Road

One of the things that he thinks would make a big impact for the street would be regular street sweeping. We spot loose gravel on the sides of lots of roads as we walk further.

He adds: "It sounds like I'm being petty. On the surface, some of these issues seem insubstantial. I'm trying to go to the parts of town that people say I wouldn't go to."

At the halfway point of our walk we come across an old BT phone box which has been badly vandalised. The windows have been smashed and an empty can is discarded inside the door. 

The Northern Echo: Peter Gibson at a vandalised BT phone box

"I always report these when I see them," says Peter. He takes a picture and says he will try to get something done about the phone box soon.

We explore the back alleys of North Street on our way back to the cars. Smashed glass, bags of rubbish and cracked paving stones are everywhere.

Peter says: "It's the broken window theory. If you ignore these things it just gets worse. Families tell me about how there used to be a real community here. We need to make sure that we get on top of this."

One property stands out as a real problem for the area - mattresses and waste are piled high in the back garden. 

The Northern Echo: Peter Gibson at a house he thinks is "dangerous"

"This is a fire risk. It's dangerous for children too. There will be vermin in there too.

"The council need to take action with enforcement action.

"They could clean this up and then charge the home owner," says Peter.

After our walk I asked the Liberal Democrat councillors for their response to the town MPs comments. 

Addressing the MP directly, they said: "It is you who never even knew about this part of town, Peter, until now, and now you are trying to shift the blame onto others. 

"The people in this area do have pride, but (like us) they are frustrated by the lack of money and resources coming into our Ward as a whole –  which is entirely the fault of your government, Peter.

"Of course the West End looks smarter. But that has nothing to do with their councillors being more engaged. 

"If that were the case then why do Conservative candidates never win in North Road? 

"Simply because their own voters vote for us Lib Dems locally because “we like the way you work for the Ward”. 

"If you had come to us at the start of your MP-ship you would have been welcomed but it is too little, and far too late to pretend to be interested now."

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Asked for a response, Council Leader Stephen Harker said: "There is deep dissatisfaction with the Conservative government, and the country needs the opportunity to have its say. 

"Peter Gibson needs to be explaining why, after 14 years of Conservative government, people are still feeling the pain of the cost-of-living crisis.

"Why it's impossible to get appointments for an NHS dentist. Why Durham police have fewer officers than they did in 2010. Why NHS waiting lists are longer than they were in 2010. 

"If Peter really wants to talk about council matters, perhaps he should start by explaining to residents why, as our MP, he has failed to get his Conservative government to properly fund Darlington Council. "