UP to 400 Darlington businesses could be represented at a conference to discuss the town's future next month.

Last year's Darlington Town Centre Conference attracted more than 120 representatives from the council, transport and businesses.

Hosted by the Darlington Town Centre Initiative, the conference will give everyone involved a chance to discuss issues relating to the area.

Town centre manager Louise Payne said: "Last year we had a very good turnout of businesses, local investors, developers, buses and taxis, and this year we are hoping for an even better turnout.

"There are 400 businesses which could attend, or send representatives. The Town Centre Forum and the council will also be represented."

Those attending the conference, being held at Darlington Football Club, will discuss how the town is operating, how to keep it viable, and how it is performing compared with other towns regionally and nationally.

Ms Payne said: "We have over the past year done a great deal of research into Darlington town centre, and a "health check" on how it was operating, so we can come up with a cohesive plan for its future.

"We want to make the most of the assets we have, and look at how we can attract businesses, shoppers and visitors to the town. We also looked at the mix of the retail shops we have.

"We have also looked at what people's perceptions of the town are, and what development sites are available for new business.

"This will all be discussed at the conference - what that research has found."

Ms Payne said the town was performing well against other towns of a similar size.

"We are trying to keep the town vibrant and attractive to new developments, and the meeting will discuss how we feel we can do that," she said.

Admission to the conference, which takes place between 10am and 3.30pm on October 12, will be free.

Anyone who would like to attend should contact Louise Payne on (01325) 352834