Calls made for meeting to determine fate of Newton Abbot's theatre

    Calls have been made for Teignbridge District Council and campaigners against the regeneration plans for the town’s cinema and theatre to sit down and meet to determine its fate.

    Calls have been made for Teignbridge District Council and campaigners against the regeneration plans for the town’s cinema and theatre to sit down and meet to determine its fate.

    The district authority owns the historic Alexandra building, but as part of a £9.2m redevelopment programme for the town centre, it is set to become part of an upgraded market hall and social complex.

    While a new multiplex cinema is set to be built in the adjacent unit currently used by New Look, the proposal to turn the current Alexandra cinema into a bar/restaurant and events venue, with a high quality market space provided in the existing market area requires knocking down the dividing internal wall, with those opposed to the plans saying it wouldn’t provide a suitable entertainment space for theatre.

    The proposal, made possible by a multi-million pound offer from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund, has angered opponents who say the town needs its performance space, but Teignbridge’s leadership have said that they will work with local groups to ensure anyone affected by the changes have a chance to have their say, before any formal plans through the planning process are submitted..

    And at a meeting of Newton Abbot Town Council last week, members voted in favour of asking Teignbridge officials to meet with them and representatives of the Friends of the Alexandra Theatre who have alternative ideas to table.

    Town Clerk Phil Rowe said: “Newton Abbot Town Council is keen to understand both sides in this debate which has prompted some strong feelings. I hope that by brokering a meeting between Teignbridge and the Friends we can help bridge the divide.

    “The Alex is owned by Teignbridge which is also the planning authority and will have the power to grant a redevelopment if formally proposed, and it is the Town Council’s belief that more talks at this stage cannot harm anyone’s position and could in fact help determine a way forward, so we look forward to a date being agreed.”

    At last Tuesday’s Teignbridge executive meeting, questions were asked by Andrew Malcolm, Chairman of the Friends of the Alexandra Theatre about the council’s vision for the town centre site.

    He asked: “Will the Executive, and in turn Full Council, be prepared to commit to accepting, perusing, and exploring the Business Plan drawn up by FoTAT alongside their own plans, and those of others, to arrive at a final democratic decision based purely on merit of the plans alone?

    “And are the Executive planning to undertake further public, meaningful, consultations on any proposed changes to the Alexandra Theatre to further understand the thoughts and feelings of local business, groups, and population of the planned changes, and if so when will this take place and to what level of depth?”

    In response, Cllr Nina Jeffries, executive member for economy and jobs, said: “The democratic decision made was to progress the vision to create a single building with a variety of cohesive uses that can be used by all. The plans will be based on the FHSF bid submitted and as advertised for the Market Hall and Corn Exchange (Alexandra Cinema) to be used as one building which will become the focal point for the Markets Quarter.

    “The Council cannot look at one part in isolation, because it forms a comprehensive package of interlinking transformational works. Ultimately the final decision will be based on viability and the business plan which includes the strategic, economic, commercial, financial and management case.

    “Detailed planning on the different elements of the regeneration plan is now underway. In the coming months we will engage with key stakeholders, traders, local organisations and community groups so that the work is informed by those most affected by the improvements.

    “Our goal is to meet the needs and interests of the widest range of local people and communities. When the detailed plans are complete, local people will have a final opportunity to influence them before works commence as part of the planning approval stage.”

    As well as the work around the Alexandra Cinema and the Market Hall, the bid includes upgrades to Queen Street and the National Cycle Network Route, the building of a new state-of-the-art cinema in the current New Look store, with the council saying that ‘the regeneration will help transform the town centre into a vibrant and welcoming place to visit, boosting footfall and local spend and creating a premier market destination for the wider area.’

    When the proposals were discussed at a full council meeting in April, councillors voted by 33 votes to seven, with one abstention, to approve the budget as part of the regeneration.

    The Market Hall plans would transform the existing Market and Food Hall, Alexandra Cinema and Market Square to include a new eating quarter, a state of the art cinema, a remodelled entertainment and events venue and a high quality market space, and would re-connect the Alexandra Cinema and Market Hall buildings to create a flexible market, food & events space.

    The final scheme proposals for the Market Hall and Alexandra Cinema will be presented to Council later this year, following further engagement with NADMACS and the Market Hall retailers.

    Teignbridge Council has also listed the Alexandra Cinema building as an Asset of Community Value, which means that if the council ever considered selling the building it would first be offered to the local community, with Teignbridge also confirming the building is not for sale.

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