The council failed to regain full control of Darlington Market

Cllr Jonathan Dulston told a Darlington Borough Council cabinet meeting that the previous Conservative-led government had looked at ways to take back ownership of the market, which was housed in the historic town center building, but was restricted due to contractual issues.

The current company running the site, Market Asset Management (MAM), was appointed to improve the building in 2017 when the then Labor-led council handed over responsibility.

But it was only after hearing concerns from shoppers and traders over the past three years that the Conservative-led council had to act, Cllr Dulston said. He now called on the Labor Party to fulfill its manifesto commitment, in which it said it would look for ways to regain control of the body.

He added: “The council under my leadership looked at several options to bring the market back under council control, but due to the really poor lease signed by Labor we were unable to implement the break clause without this caused significant costs to taxpayers.”

“I welcome the new Labor government’s commitment to bring the market back into council ownership, but I fear this is nothing more than a flippant comment without any substance.”

Work continues to prepare the market for the future, the owners say, and it has benefited from millions of pounds in investment – but buyers are now faced with a market that looks drastically different to when MAM took over, with several established companies leaving the site for good.

Labor Minister Chris McEwan, Cabinet Member for Economy, confirmed the council intends to help shape the future of the market and is in contact with MAM. “I was extremely disappointed when the last government failed to apply a break clause. There is general consensus that the market is a jewel in the crown and I think it is still early to be able to answer that question.

“However, I have spent some time there and there are some signs of progress. I think the market is worth visiting. There are people who want the traditional shops back, but I’ve eaten there a few times and there are some encouraging things happening there. You can get a Parmo for example. There are some positive signs and I can only encourage others to take advantage of it.”

Just months after launching the new street food offering two years ago, market bosses were faced with the task of finding replacement traders after several pulled out. Since then, several other cafes and market traders have left the site, but the company has also attracted new businesses.

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A spokesman for Market Asset Management said: “MAM has a very good working relationship with Darlington Borough Council. We had discussions with the council at a very early stage about how a possible further development of the current working arrangements could be determined.

“Just to emphasize that it is still very early days for any change to the current agreement, but MAM is always open to how we can improve the market even further.”

“It’s an exciting time for the market, now entering Phase 3 of a multi-million pound transformation to cement its place as a food, retail and live entertainment market – including stunning new designer boutiques and craft stalls that to be opened from November.” is home to around a dozen new artisans and traders such as hairdressers, beauticians, tattoo artists, traditional shops, high-quality fashion and delicious food.” The council failed to regain full control of Darlington Market

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