PROPOSALS to turn Darlington into the gateway to the North-East took a step forward last night.

Councillors gave the go-ahead for the latest phase of a regeneration scheme, which aims to attract new business to the town.

The Gateway Project, being put together by the borough council and the Tees Valley Partnership, is focused on developing three prime sites.

They include a 75-acre site off Haughton Road -with already-established road and rail links - which is seen as ideal for offices, housing and hotel use, possibly helping to make Darlington a conference centre.

Officials believe it is one of the most significant opportunities for a high quality urban development next to the East Coast Mainline, in northern England.

Faverdale has also been identified as the most suitable site for industrial development, with leisure services also earmarked.

The 129-acre Great Park site, to the east of the town, is being lined up as a quality business park and is seen as the natural successor project to Morton Palms.

At a cabinet meeting last night, economic regeneration spokesman Councillor David Lyonette singled out the Haughton Road development for praise.

"I think an awful lot of people will be that pleased that there is some intention to develop on this site," he said.