Town centre users in Darlington can enjoy time by the river as the riverside park scheme, Darlington’s newest public open space, opens to the public on Monday 3 July.
In little over four months, the area, which was once a car park at the rear of the Town Hall, has been transformed into a public open space with landscaping (including new trees and shrubs), new seating, improved lighting and improved walkways and cycle paths. The park now links the new Feethams Leisure development with St Cuthbert’s churchyard boundary to create a linear park along the river.
Whilst the main construction and landscaping work is now complete, seeded areas will take longer to grow. It is hoped that the completed green look of the park will be celebrated as part of the Festival of Ingenuity taking place in Darlington from Friday 22 – Saturday 23 September.
A new viewing platform, looking out across the Skerne, will give park users a different view of the river. The area is on the original site of the Bishop’s Palace and an information board and some of the stonework from the Palace has been used in the scheme. Also in place is a new pergola and seating area, known as the ‘Lions Den’ which has kindly been supported by the Darlington Lions Club as part of their celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of Lions Clubs International.
Most of the funding for the scheme was secured as part of the joint investment with the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) in making the nearby Feethams Leisure development happen. This joint investment is an ideal way of securing a better environment for both the Feethams Leisure scheme and the riverside. The cash was ringfenced to the development scheme, and demonstrates the Council working in partnership with Government agencies like the HCA to improve the town’s offer.
Funding was also secured from Local Growth Fund through Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) through the sustainable access to employment programme.
Councillor Bill Dixon, Leader of Darlington Borough Council, said:
“This area has been completely transformed into a natural oasis on the doorstep of our town centre. The riverside has been opened up and is ready to be enjoyed in the coming summer months by locals and visitors alike.
“This part of the town played a crucial part in the birth of Darlington, being one of the first bridging points of the river. It is fitting that the rich heritage of the site is recognised in the scheme. The natural environment will also benefit with newly created habitats. Many thanks to the HCA for their funding,TVCA, and to the Darlington Lions for their kind generosity.”
Marie Kiddell, Head of Public Sector Land for HCA added:
“The positive impact of our £450,000 is fantastic. Working with our Partners at Darlington Borough Council, we have made a real and lasting difference to the Town. I look forward to coming back and enjoying the park as it matures over the next few years.”
Jenny Lumley, Darlington Lions President (from 1 July), said:
”The riverside development has been a perfect opportunity for us to celebrate 100 years of international Lionism. We hope the Lions Den will be a lasting reminder of our service within the community.”
Ample parking is available at Feethams multi storey car park, with the 650 spaces replacing spaces lost at the Town Hall and other car parks. The Feethams car park is pay on foot, and also contains motorcycle parking and electric vehicle charging points. More details of alternative car parking can be found at www.darlington.gov.uk/carparking
More details of the Riverside Scheme can be found at www.darlington.gov.uk/riversidepark