A NEW facility for young families in Darlington has opened to the public.

The Darlington Railway Museum has lent a building in McNay Street to the town's Sure Start project so it can increase the amount of help it gives young children and their parents.

Sure Start is a national scheme aimed at ensuring young children in less well-off areas get the best start in life.

It works with parents and parents-to-be to promote the physical, intellectual and social development of babies and young children to help them to flourish at home and when they start school.

It concentrates on giving families access to health care, social services and education.

The Darlington scheme will be run from the new office until a purpose-built centre can be built in the same area.

Last year the borough council received funding from the Government to build a Sure Start centre which is now in the planning stage.

Until the temporary accommodation became available, the project was run from a small office and so a full range of activities could not be offered to local people.

A Sure Start spokesman said: "Until now we have been unable to offer a huge range of services because we didn't have the space.

"The Railway Museum is letting us have this building until our own centre is open which we hope will be in about a year and we are very excited at the possibilities it has opened up."

The new building will provide nursery care for 41 youngsters under the age of four and Sure Start staff hope it will become a meeting place for whole families.

It has a number of meeting rooms, computers, a laundry and a kitchen. As well as regular group meetings, the Sure Start centre will organise special days and outings throughout the summer for the whole family.

It hopes to offer sessions in writing CVs, giving up smoking and other life skills for parents.

More than 500 invitations were sent out to Wednesday's opening of the temporary building with councillors, parents, local businesses and the general public invited to see what was on offer.