The rise and rise of "the Tees Valley" continues apace. Like an invading army, the term is reaching out its tentacles to capture more and more unsuspecting locations.

Ten years ago, nobody (apart, perhaps, from geographers) referred to the Tees Valley (most ordinary people still don't).

But now ... coming over the river from Croft into Hurworth Place and County Durham, a new sign informed Spectator he was entering the Borough of Darlington "in the Tees Valley".

Secondly, a national advertising campaign for tourism in Northumbria extols the glories of the region, from Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland to "Roseberry Topping in Tees Valley".

Funny, I always thought Roseberry Topping was part of the North York Moors (but perhaps the words York or Yorkshire are banned in Northumbria tourism literature).

And as for Darlington ... it's been in County Durham for at least 1,000 years, and Spectator suspects most of its residents would prefer it to stay that way.

Retail struggle

KWIKSAVE is pulling out of Darlington altogether this month. What? Even the discounters are leaving? And still no-one's moved into Dressers' former High Row shop, either, although there may be news on this shortly.

Then there's all the stores which haven't come in the first place: J Sainsbury, Tesco, Debenham's, Laura Ashley, John Lewis, Monsoon, Starbucks, Prt Manger are among those which come to mind.

It is an interesting point of comparison that of the two Dressers premises which came on to the market last year, both of them in absolutely prime positions, the Northallerton one was snapped up by Ottakars while the Darlington shop remains empty. And why has Laura Ashley opened in a not-too-promising site in Northallerton while opportunities abound 16 miles up the road?

Is Darlington caught between two stools as a "sub-regional shopping centre" - as commercial estate agents like to describe it? Is it now not big enough to attract the bigger High Street names while at the same time, with the help of the Cornmill, developing to a point where rental values drive out the smaller retailers?

Answers on a postcard to the Town Centre Manager at the Town Hall