Council leaders 'committed to secure' Darlington's 'eyesore' tower block

Council leaders insist they are "committed" to taking ownership of Darlington's tallest building.

The local authority's plan to acquire Northgate House, labelled locally as an "eyesore", has faced several delays due to contractual issues with the current owners. Darlington Borough Council first outlined plans to demolish the tower block in 2021, as part of a wider regeneration of the Northgate area of town. A new mixed-use residential and commercial gateway to the town is proposed for the site.

But hopes of quickly securing a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) were unsuccessful and officials have admitted any progress soon is unlikely. The council's Labour leadership faced criticism from Conservative colleagues at a meeting on Thursday, who reiterated the need for the building to be demolished.

Cllr Jonathan Dulston said: "Have you been in the room with the current owners of Northgate House and been as direct with them as I have about the need for the building to be brought down?"

Responding, Cllr Chris McEwan, cabinet member for economy, said he is confident of a positive resolution. He said: "You will understand the complexity of this issue, and what I can say is the CPO is progressing but it needs a planning application, which is also progressing. We are committed to resolving this issue."

Council Leader Stephen Harker accused the Tories of not fully understanding the process, however. He said: "You failed to understand how complex it was. It is a complex issue because there is a process which takes time." The £2.5m funding earmarked for the Northgate House remains on the table despite the deadlock.

Chris Mains, Towns Fund programme manager, told an April meeting: "There is an outline planning application for Northgate House and nearby Gladstone Street redevelopment in the works. Long-term, I'm confident it will happen, but I'm not sure on timescales."

And when asked how far the council is from the owner's valuation, Mr Mains revealed: "It's approximately more than double. We have stretched the initial valuation twice, but it doesn't scratch the surface."