A CONFERENCE is being held in Darlington to examine its flagship transport scheme, Local Motion, and help steer towns across the country in the right direction.

Darlington is the only highway authority in England to have secured funding worth about £4.75m to become a sustainable travel and cycling demonstration town.

The free day-long conference on Wednesday, April 2, at the Dolphin Leisure Centre will highlight the successful and failed projects.

It also aims to stimulate debate how local authorities can secure funding to improve their own environment, health and economy.

Sessions at the conference will include how Darlington's Local Motion project is being delivered, travel behaviour changes in the town and factors influencing walking and cycling levels.

Darlington council's cabinet member for transport, councillor David Lyonette, said the conference was being held here as the town had been hailed as a leader in research and marketing.

He said: "It's a feather in our cap that we are hosting the conference in Darlington."

He added that due to the success of the scheme, the town was now bidding for a pot of European funding, called Interreg.

Owen Wilson, the council's transport policy officer, who will speak at the conference, said since Local Motion was introduced two years ago, the number of trips by bike had doubled and the number of journeys on foot had increased by 15 per cent.

He said: "So far Local Motion has achieved a reduction of nine per cent in car journeys in Darlington and has encouraged people across the Borough to walk, cycle and take public transport.

"Part of our role as a sustainable travel town is to give information to other local authorities, and council across the country has been invited to the Local Motion conference where we will be talking to them about our successes and plans for the future."

As part of the scheme, there are plans to install bicycle sheds at seven Darlington schools with an extra 330 parking slots.

Nationally, only one per cent of pupils cycle to school every day but in Darlington, the figure is 4.4 per cent.

Proposals were submitted to Darlington Borough Council this month for 102 bicycle slots at Longfield School, 60 at Branksome Comprehensive and 20 at Corporation Road primary school.