CHAOS in Crown Street has been forecast following plans to re-route up to 155 buses an hour down a narrow and busy street in Darlington.

Plans to pedestrianise the town centre during the day, which will include a ban on vehicles in four main shopping streets, which, it is claimed would boost Darlington "up a league" in competition with other towns.

But if the bus re-routing goes ahead using a new Northgate, Crown Street, Stonebridge bus corridor, a conflict of pedestrians, cars and buses will ensue, according to local bus company Stagecoach.

Traffic lights could also be installed at a major roundabout and plans have already been passed for a second deck on Crown Street car park, doubling spaces to 420.

A light controlled pedestrian crossing is also being considered to enable shoppers to cross in safety from the extended car park to the Cornmill Centre.

The creation of a "pedestrian heart" will go to Tuesday's cabinet meeting for approval. It is based on a town centre access study by independent consultants.

Proposals include traffic lights at Stonebridge roundabout and partial signalling at Northgate roundabout.

The report suggests leaving the central shopping area for the exclusive use of pedestrians between 9am and 5.30.

The main recommendation involves the pedestrianisation of Prebend Row and Northgate from Priestgate to Crown Street; and Bondgate from the entrance to Abbott's Yard car park to the Prebend Row junction.

Buses would be diverted on to Northgate, Crown Street and Stonebridge and it is estimated that the numbers per hour could reach 155, compared with the 107 currently in Northgate.

John Buxton, director of development, said design work showed bus numbers in Crown Street could be accommodated, albeit "with some bunching".

"The increase will inevitably make Crown Street a less pleasant environment, but again the substantial improvements in the heart of the town centre balance this," he said.

Parking for disabled would be moved from Crown Street to nearby Quebec Street, and there is the possibility of a bus layby in Crown Street southbound to act as a layover area.

Access to Crown Street car park would be via East Street and exit by a left hand turn to the Crown Street-Tubwell Row junction.

At Wednesday's town centre forum meeting, Richard Cranmer, of Stagecoach, expressed concerns over the chaos re-routing could bring.

He said: "We acknowledge there is a need for change but this plan will see the pedestrian, bus and car in conflict with each other in Crown Street.

"Crown Street will be very busy and the junction with Tubwell Row is already congested.

"Re-routing as it is proposed could also result in frequency reductions and fare increases.