SKATEBOARDERS could be fined up to £500 each for skating in Darlington's new-look town centre.

Darlington Borough Council has proposed the ban after receiving complaints from the public.

Shoppers have complained that the skaters could injure shoppers and damage the surface of the newly-laid Pedestrian Heart.

Local disability groups welcomed the move yesterday, but skaters described the potential £500 fine as "ridiculous", and say that they have nowhere else to go.

Gordon Pybus, chairman of Darlington Association on Disability, said: "I think this is brilliant news and we fully support the council.

"We were really concerned that all the new ramps and steps in the town centre were going to be used for skateboarding.

"Skaters can really cause damage. They really put off partially-sighted people, and people in wheelchairs from coming to the town centre. There are places for skateboarders to go and that's where they should be.

"I would really like the same rule to be introduced for cyclists. They are just as big a problem."

The council could also introduce a new bylaw to ban ball games in the Market Square and in Skinnergate.

The proposals will be considered at a full council meeting on Thursday.

Michelle Murphy, owner of Urban Chaos skate shop, said yesterday: "People skate in town because there's nowhere else.

"To fine skaters £500 is ridiculous - most of them are children.

"Why doesn't the council fine bikers as well? What is the difference?

"The skate park the council built at South Park doesn't meet the demand for skate facilities.

"The Pedestrian Heart is ideal - it's like a dream for skaters. I can understand why people would complain about skaters in the town centre, but £500 is over the top." A council spokesman said: "We have received a number of complaints from people about these issues. As far as skateboarding goes, there are alternative places in the borough, such as South Park.

"The council is committed to improving the town centre and making it a more attractive and safe place for residents and visitors. If approved, these proposals would help that aim.

"There is a six-month trial period for cyclists in the Pedestrian Heart area starting in June. The council will be assessing that daily, and we will take a decision on how to proceed after that."