A NEW team of people, dressed in eye-catching orange, have been patrolling the streets of Darlington, sparking the curiosity of shoppers.

They are the rangers, the public face of an initiative to improve the town centre and make it a better experience for visitors and businesses alike.

The four rangers, led by head ranger Ben Steel, will patrol the town centre and offer advice and support to visitors, while also working with business owners to come up with ideas to improve the town and solve any problems.

The rangers are employed by Distinct Darlington - the private company set up to run the Darlington Business Improvement District (Bid), which is funded through a levy on all businesses within the town centre.

They took up their posts on October 1 and have spent their first weeks visiting businesses and getting to know the town.

Mr Steel, 34, said: “The initial feedback from the businesses is very good. They are welcoming us here because we will be representing them as champions of Darlington.

“We’ve also been getting approached a lot more by members of the public in recent days and they’ve been asking us questions about what we’re doing and about the town itself.”

The team, which also includes Martin Laws, Helen Surma and Michael Oakley, said they have quickly realised that shoppers in Darlington have set routines and stick to the High Street stores they know rather than trying some of the independent shops in the town, something they want to change.

Alex Swan, manager of Distinct Darlington, said that while the rangers are currently finding their feet, they will become increasingly involved in projects to boost the town, as well as offering a helping hand to visitors.

She said: “Ultimately, they are here to make Darlington a cleaner, safer and more welcoming place.

"They will be liaising with the businesses and keeping them involved in the Bid and making sure they are happy.

“They are also first aid trained and have full CRB checks so they can deal with minor injuries or lost children, as well as offering advice, inspiration or directions.”

One of the first projects the rangers are involved in is the ice rink planned for the market square for the festive season, set to open on November 29.