An update on development work to revitalise a neglected part of Darlington town centre will be presented to councillors next week.

The Feethams Programme, which was first launched in 2008, aims to rejuvenate the area to the south of the market square and has taken major strides after building work began on the multi-million pound cinema and leisure complex.

The sale of the former bus station site to the developers behind the cinema complex has brought the council a capital receipt of £405,000 – funds which have been earmarked to create a riverside park stretching along the River Skerne.

Members of Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet will hear about the latest progress on the cinema site and the Department for Education building, to the rear of the town hall, which is nearing completion.

The report notes the work that is being done to ensure different elements of building work around the Feethams area, including the riverside park plans and a new multi-storey car park, are well-managed and complement each other.

On the multi-storey car park, the report prepared for councillors states that work on the facility is expected to begin in January with the aim of being completed by December, at the same time as the new cinema.

However, the report notes that the scale of the works, and the temporary reopening of part of the car park to the rear of the town hall to mitigate the loss of parking elsewhere, could mean delays in the development of the proposed riverside park.

To keep the riverside park scheme on track, councillors will be asked to release £50,000 of the £405,000 land receipt to advance design and feasibility studies so that work can begin as soon as the multi-storey car park is complete and the temporary car park is no longer needed.

The report said: “The ‘Riverside Park’ is a key component of both the Town Centre Fringe Masterplan and the Feethams Brief, as well as the borough’s Green Infrastructure Plan.

“It seeks to help alleviate flooding issues across the town centre fringe and to provide attractive frontage to the developments in the Feethams area and contributes towards wider green infrastructure objectives such as habitat creation and provision of accessible informal open space close to the town centre.

“A further cabinet paper is proposed to enable members to approve the design in advance of planning and to release the necessary funding in respect of the riverside park in advance of its delivery.”

The cabinet will meet at 5pm on Wednesday in the town hall.

Source: The Northern Echo

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