Plans to demolish 'eyesore' tower block in doubt as council admits 'we're not hopeful'

Council plans to acquire and demolish the "eyesore" Northgate House in Darlington have been cast in doubt.

Several proposals to redevelop the tower block have been revealed since it closed more than 10 years ago but have not been completed. Darlington Borough Council outlined plans to acquire and demolish the town's tallest building in 2021, as part of a wider regeneration of the Northgate area of town. However, that ambition has reached an impasse as the local authority is yet to take control of the site.

The council has now admitted acquiring the building through a compulsory purchase order in the near future is "unlikely". The council's Towns Fund Programme Manager Chris Mains faced questions on the future of the building at an economy and resources scrutiny meeting on Thursday. Cllr Heather Scott said: "What is happening to Northgate House? Will it just stand and be an eyesore for longer?"

Mr Mains said the funding earmarked for the Northgate House - around £2.5m - remains on the table despite the deadlock. "There is an outline planning application for Northgate House and nearby Gladstone Street redevelopment in the works," he said. "We are still trying to acquire Northgate House through a compulsory purchase order."

But when asked about the likelihood of the building's owners accepting the council's current offer, Mr Mains revealed there have been challenges. He said: "It feels unlikely, based on past correspondence. They are known throughout the country that this is their method of operation; buying properties and sitting on them.

"I am not particularly hopeful. 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."

The redevelopment of Northgate is part of a council vision to create a new mixed-use residential and commercial gateway to the town. A council report, outlining its ambition to redevelop the area, states: "Acquiring the site and potentially working in partnership with private sector developers will transform this abandoned area of town. The creation of residential and mixed-use development with the inclusion of green spaces and easy transport options.

"In addition, we include proposals for public realm improvements, property acquisition, town Wi-Fi and enhancements along North Road up to the Railway Heritage Quarter." Concerned that the plans had been dismissed, due to the funding challenges, Cllr Scott Durham warned that Northgate "appears to be forgotten" - but Mr Williams assured councillors: "the strategy hasn't changed for Northgate."

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