'To thrive or wither' - that is the question as plans deliver town centre fit for future
Daniel Clarke Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: Teignbridge Council
Multi-million pound plans to transform Newton Abbot and make it Devon’s premier market town have been backed.
Teignbridge District Council’s executive had previously unanimously agreed to accept £9.2 million in Government funding from the Future High Streets Fund for proposals to regenerate the town's Market and Food Hall, Alexandra Cinema and Market Square areas.
A full council meeting has now seen members agree to the budget for the specific projects within the bid, which include pedestrian and cycling improvements for better links to shopping facilities, a new cinema built on the site of the existing New Look store, and the reduction of the dominance of the car park in Queen Street.
The current Alexandra Cinema will be converted into a bar/restaurant and events venue, with a high quality market space provided in the existing market area
Cllr Nina Jeffries, executive member for economy and jobs, said: “This will help long held ambitions for Newton Abbot to be the premier market town and will help create a vibrant town centre for everyone, in particular future generations.”
Cllr Jackie Hook said: “This is an opportunity for Newton Abbot. It will enable businesses to prosper, and quality of life for all residents to be enhanced. We can proceed confident we have the majority support of the town’s residents and for the proposals and we can achieve the best outcome for current residents, but also those of the future.”
Council leader Alan Connett said: “This investment will make Newton Abbot Devon’s premier market town. People are scaring members of the public by saying the Alexandra as a building is at risk. It is not, it is staying. We are trying to support and invest in Newton Abbot.
“Why is Newton Abbot condemned to the museum of history and why cannot it see investment and draw people in from around the area. It is a once in a lifetime chance. We either live in the history museum or we take the opportunity and invest money into Newton Abbot to make it the premier town, or we stay as we are, but the consequence is the footfall will decline, shops will close, and Newton Abbot will not thrive but wither on the vine and they will go somewhere else and vote with their feet."
Tory group leader Phil Bullivant said: "The investment is welcome and something that future generations will hopefully look back on as being a great success."
Liam Mullone, leader of the Newton Says No group, and a successful stand-up comedian, said that the proposals would not be of any value as a performance space.
He said: “If it is a choice between this plan and no money, then let’s not take the money. We need to get away from the idea that spending money makes things better and this plan is the equivalent of botched plastic surgery."
The final scheme proposals for the Market Hall and Alexandra Cinema will be presented to Council later this year.
Sally Henley, Newton Abbot town centre manager, after the meeting said: “While it is certain and good to know that Newton Abbot town centre is not struggling in the way that many towns and cities are post pandemic, it is marvellous that there will be funding to improve some of the Teignbridge owned assets within the town centre.
“Improvements to the Market Hall and Market Square are long overdue and it will be great to have more flexible space including that within the Alexandra Theatre. The ‘Alex’ holds a fine place in our hearts and has serviced the town for many years as a cinema and part time theatre.
“However, a town the size of Newton Abbot and with its considerable catchment is in need of a better facility with more screens, in order to compete with other towns. It’s great that Scott cinemas – our current operator will continue to provide the cinema experience for Newton Abbot."
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