EVERYONE welcomes the news that £20m has been allocated to prepare for the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 2025 and to acknowledge the contribution made by the Pease family in Darlington.

To restore the town centre to vibrancy and to retain our heritage, Darlington council must start planning now.

Austerity is not an issue if it can spend £60,000 on solar litter bins, £6m on a multistorey car park, £8.5m on the Beaumont Street office block, not to mention £2m on legal fees and construction work in its failed attempt to close the Pease memorial library.

With only a few easy, inexpensive changes, the town centre could start to thrive again – free disc parking, traffic in Skinnergate, market in the Market Place and parking in the square when it is not used for stalls. All unnecessary yellow lines and parking restrictions should also be removed, and there should be free disabled parking and taxi tokens for the elderly.

They should also reconsider the bus routes. The council has signed a 100-year lease on the Covered Market in return for a pittance of a rent, and it has loaned £2m to the management company without any fixed date for the completion of the renovation work.

This is foolhardy. It could be years before the refurbishments come to fruition, and yet we are a proud town expecting thousands of visitors for the 200th anniversary but we are not even able to offer a single public toilet.

Jean Jones, Darlington