PLANS to transform a former 1950s ballroom into a North-East music academy have collapsed.

Darlington businessman David Cox had hoped to revive the building on the town's Lingfield estate into a live entertainment centre with recording studios, rehearsal rooms and an auditorium.

But negotiations with estate owners the Marchday Group, based in London, fell through on the day the lease was due to be signed by both parties.

Mr Cox is now looking for another public building to house the venture.

He said: "We were all ready to sign. The council had been fantastic and the response has been incredible from people in the town who really liked what we were doing.

"On the day we were due to sign they asked if I had considered a five-year lease instead of a ten-year. They said they may have alternate plans for the building and it would be an idea for it to run for five years. Days later they called to say they had withdrawn the offer.."

Mr Cox said he had more than 100 people wanting to sign up as members of the academy.

A spokesman for the Marchday Group said it was still undecided over the ballroom's future.

Lingfield estate manager Eddie Humphries said: "The Beehive was of great importance to Darlington in the 1950s and 1960s, and we hope that any interested party will reflect the economic importance of the site."

Darlington Borough Council were giving Mr Cox advice on grants .A spokeswoman said: "It is a disappointment as everyone seemed ideally suited to the project and if successful would have created 20 to 30 jobs and brought the building back into use."