PLANS to create a 'pedestrian heart' in Darlington town centre within two years have been revealed.

Under the proposals, four main roads would be pedestrianised between 9am and 5.30pm.

The changes were suggested in a Town Centre Access Study carried out by independent consultants.

The experts were asked what changes would have to be made in Darlington to increase its competitiveness as a shopping centre.

Their research concluded that pedestrianisation would make the town more desirable to shoppers both living in the town and visiting from elsewhere.

The four areas which would be pedestrianised under the proposals are Prospect Place, the south end of Northgate, High Row and Skinnergate

One of the main reasons for the proposed changes, put forward to Darlington Borough Council's cabinet next week, is to make the town centre safer by removing the bus stops from High Row and the busiest end of Northgate.

Buses will go along Crown Street, Tubwell Row and Coniscliffe Road to get around the town.

There will be no bus stops on Prebend Row so shoppers will have to walk further to get to the main shops. Benches and other street furniture in Northgate and Crown Street will be removed to make it easier for pedestrians to walk to the new bus stops.

The north end of Northgate would be transformed into the main area for the town's bus stops. The possible congestion could be eased by a new bus lay-by being created on Crown Street to allow buses to easily over-take each other.

Steve Noble, managing director of Arriva North-East, which runs many of the town centre bus services, said the company would work with the council to ensure that its customers were not inconvenienced by any changes.

The town centre plans also include revising disabled parking in the town with the loss of designated parking on Crown Street but with new spaces created in Quebec Street and the other car parks in the town.

Next week the council's cabinet will be asked to approve the scheme in principle. Detailed designs will be drawn up and consultations with the public will be carried out. If all goes to plan the work could start by Spring 200