THIS week ambitious plans were set out to transform Darlington’s Victorian covered market building into a Covent Garden-style destination.

The spectacular designs have been broadly welcomed by the public, but negative comments about the amount of empty shops in the town centre have also been received.

We know high street retail is in serious decline as online superpowers like Amazon manage to offer cheaper and more convenient ways to buy. Nine-to-five shopping is also less convenient for a generation of supermarket shoppers.

And with anchor tenants such as House of Fraser having been close to the edge in recent years, high streets are more in danger than ever. Darlington has seen Marks & Spencer, Starbucks, McDonalds and TX Maxx leave the town recently –but retail expert Graham Soult has in the past spoken of his admiration for the “magnificent” space around High Row. And the jewel in the crown, according to deputy council leader Chris McEwan, is the heritage covered market.

The future of high street retail is going to look very different in years to come, which is why making Darlington an attractive place to visit, with niche and artisan, independent shops and restaurants, is important. Filling the empty shops and units begins and ends with investing in interesting and different places like the covered market.

We welcome the plans and hope to see them come to fruition very soon.