DARLINGTON is in need of some good news after two weeks of trauma following news of the planned closure of both Binns and Marks & Spencer.

The demise of the stores has sparked fears of a terminal decline in Darlington’s high street retail offering. Darlington Borough Council insists the town centre is still thriving, with Cllr Nick Wallis saying it is simply in a period of transition. Transition to what though, is the million dollar question.

In this column on Friday in the wake of the Binns revelation, we said the town needed a plan and people with vision and ambition to see it through. Our lead story today focuses on plans which would fall under that description – for a £20m sports village at The Northern Echo Arena, supported by housing, leisure facilities and a retail area. The scheme sounds like a chance to build on the excellent sporting foundations already laid by Darlington Mowden Park. When similar plans were mooted by an entrepreneur for Blackwell Meadows in 2015, they were rejected by the council amid fears it would damage the town centre.

Three years later with the retail landscape changed beyond all recognition, the council has changed tack to the extent that it is a key partner in the latest proposals and has pledged £50,000 towards detailed feasibility studies.

The reason for this change is not yet clear, but perhaps there is a growing realisation that the town can no longer afford to pass on opportunities such as this, whatever the impact on the town centre.