A FOOTBRIDGE linking a landmark development to a town centre is to be in place next year – three years later than planned.

Issues surrounding the innovative material used to build the bridge have led to the delays.

The proposed footbridge will link the Central Park development with Darlington town centre and would go over the East Coast Main Line.

It would be sited along Haughton Road and lead into the grounds of the Darlington College building and also the site of the planned University of Teesside campus.

The bridge is being made from recycled plastic and fibre-reinforced polymer, which is ordinarily used in the maritime industry, and requires minimal maintenance.

It will be the first time the material has been used for a bridge in this country.

When plans were first submitted for the bridge in August 2006, it was expected to be completed by Easter 2007. However, work has been delayed by nearly three years, but the council now expects the bridge to be completed next year.

A spokeswoman said: “Some initial construction work has been undertaken on the bridge, with an innovative design that uses a fibre reinforced polymer to ease its placement over the busy railway line, and the council is in continuing discussion with all relevant parties to ensure its successful completion. The contractor advises that a start on site is expected in 2010.”

The finished bridge will be 65 metres long and 15 metres high. It is being built as part of a partnership between Tees Valley Regeneration, One North East, the Homes and Communities Agency and Darlington Borough Council Funding, totalling £1.94m, has been secured from the Homes and Community Agency and the Department of Transport, although the total cost of the project may be less than this.

However, the funding will not be paid until the bridge is completed.

The £200m Central Park development aims to transform a 70-acre brownfield site into a mixture of homes, office, a hotel and sports and community facilities.

Last year, the council was told that the state of the economy may mean parts of the project are delayed.