DARLINGTON REGENERATION: Plans unveiled to lure visitors back to the area
Image from Spaceworks Planning Document
Major regeneration plans have been unveiled for parts of Darlington to entice visitors back to the region.
A local authority aiming to reverse the fortunes of a town centre hit by years of declining numbers of visitors has unveiled a scheme to enable people to move more easily and pleasantly between its shopping areas.
Darlington Borough Council has applied to its own planning committee to approve its scheme to demolish shops and warehouses in Skinnergate and Raby Street, create 16 flats, four shop units and renovate the three-storey grade II listed former Wildsmith’s grocers building.
While the listed building has been branded an eyesore since it was hit by a fire in 2018, the council has been unable to improve it until after buying the 18th century property and neighbouring former Argos and Cash Converters buildings to get a parcel of land for a viable development.
It is understood the plans have been lodged following months of negotiations with Historic England over how the listed building could be renovated.
The scheme also includes the former British and Foreign School building, but as it is classed as a non-designated heritage asset, there have been less restrictions over redeveloping it.
Planning documents state the council has recognised the site as “a key opportunity for an exemplar scheme to kick start the regeneration for Skinnergate and the Town Centre Conservation Area…taking the emphasis away from retail”.
Councillor Alan Marshall, the authority’s economy portfolio holder, said the council had held meetings with traders and residents to get their views ahead of a decision being made.
The authority amended the proposals after residents raised concerns over car parking, the potential misuse of an alley onto Skinnergate during the evenings and plans to include a further shop unit off the rear of the listed building.
Cllr Marshall said the redevelopment plan mirrored the council’s strategy to create more homes in the town centre to increase footfall.
He said: “We need to get people being in the town. A vibrant town centre attracts more people to it.
“It’s a brilliant scheme. It looks absolutely stunning with the change in the skyline.
“There retail frontage on Skinnergate will blend in very nicely with what’s there now. Opposite Buckton’s Yard there’s an archway going through into some public space, so coming down from Raby Street it brings you into Skinnergate very well. I think it will be a real boost for the street.”
Written by Stuart Minting, Local Democracy Reporter
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