An independent report looking at the future of town centres in the region has ranked Darlington third best in the North East.

Compiled by the North East Chamber of Commerce and town planning experts Lichfield, the “Town Centres: Planning for the Future” report took into account the the number and size of the shops each town centre offers.

Darlington was ranked third, behind Newcastle city centre and the Metro Centre, with the news being welcomed by senior councillors.

However, they admitted that more is needed to be done to tackle the on-going challenges faced by the town centre.

Councillor Chris McEwan, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for economy and regeneration, said: “We recognise and welcome the report but we are not complacent – we have some exciting plans for the town centre.

“Like so many other High Streets, Darlington is not immune to blows but, by working in partnership with retailers and other stakeholders in the town centre we can tackle those challenges.

“We are working alongside business owners to develop a clear vision and a holistic approach for the future – developing actions for the short term and implementing physical change for the long term.”

Darlington Borough Council is focusing on a more flexible planning approach to town centre uses, actions to improve the cleanliness and appearance of the area, parking offer sand a comprehensive package of events has been put into place to encourage visitors.

The report recognises that town centres will have to change, with retail being more concentrated, sitting alongside leisure and residential.

In Darlington, that could mean more office jobs being located in the town and the council will be encouraging landlords to consider alternative use rather than buildings standing empty.

McEwan added: “The report makes a number of recommendations about how councils and stakeholders should go about tackling the challenges facing town centres and I’m pleased to see that they mirror a lot of the work already being done in Darlington.

“Business, property owners and the council will work to create the conditions for a diverse and healthy town centre.

“The focus over the next few years is to create a town that residents and visitors feel is welcoming, a well-rounded experience and is about enjoying yourself.”

Source: Darlington Borough Council