THIS has been a challenging year for Darlington. The loss of Marks and Spencer from the town centre was a big blow, and while Binns was saved when Mike Ashley took over House of Fraser, the long-term future of one of Darlington’s flagship stores remains uncertain.

Darlington Borough Council’s finances remain tight, with its leader, Stephen Harker, recently revealing that £42m of government grant has disappeared. The town’s football club continues to battle against financial difficulties in National League North.

There have been some notable success stories in 2018 though, and we are delighted to have been able to celebrate them.

The opening of the National Biologics Manufacturing Centre has helped turn Darlington into a leading UK centre of excellence for biosciences. The Feethams leisure complex and office block have been well received, and the redeveloped Darlington Hippodrome has proved a huge success.

Hopefully, there will be more positive news to report in 2019. The 94-acre Symmetry Park project is nearing completion, with online retailer Amazon due to move in by next autumn. The occupiers of the rest of the site will be revealed shortly, with the potential for more than 2,500 new jobs.

Ingenium Parc should become a reality, while there are also advanced plans for the regeneration of Bank Top Station, subject to government funding.

These are exciting times for Darlington, and we look forward to being a part of them.