Jackie Hook

Liberal Democrat District Councillor Bushell Ward Learn more

Future High Street Fund and Alexandra Theatre

by Jackie Hook on 3 March, 2021

You will no doubt of heard that just after Christmas Teignbridge District Council were informed that we had been successful in our bid to the Future High Street Fund. This will enable significant investment of £9.2 m into the future prosperity and environment of Newton Abbot town centre.

Our original bid had been for £13m which has meant that although successful we had to rework the proposals, and resubmit them by the end of February. This we have now done.

The detail of the original proposals can be found on TDC’s webpage https://www.teignbridge.gov.uk/fhsf

The proposals seek to enhance both the quality of the town centre experience and the variety of offer, improving access via all modes of transport. This will unlock significant social and economic benefits. The proposal focuses on strengthening the Market and Cultural Quarters and delivering upgrades to Queen Street and access by foot and cycle and those with disabilities.

The reworked bid has removed the Cricketfield Car Park decking proposal. Newton Abbot has spare car park capacity so it was felt more important to continue with those elements that will transform the offer of Newton Abbot, and attract further footfall.

A public consultation on the proposals was held last Summer. Changes were made to the proposal details as a result of comments received and these can be viewed on our website. There was good support for all elements of the scheme.

However, one of the more controversial elements of the proposals that was misunderstood by some relate to the Alexandra Theatre. As explained during the consultation the building will remain, and the cinema element will be relocated to a purpose built premises next door. The plan is to link the internal space of both the Market Hall and the theatre, to include a new eating quarter, a remodelled entertainment and events venue and a high quality market space to emulate markets like Spitalfields.

A business case was prepared for the possible future theatre only option, and the current theatre group took part in this and the final report was shared with them last June. It showed that it was possible to run a theatre only space, but would be difficult to achieve viability without seed funding and grant help.

The Proposals were considered by TDC Executive at a public virtual Committee meeting in July last year, where all councillors and the public could attend and by notice ask questions. https://democracy.teignbridge.gov.uk/documents/s9482/FutureHighSt.Final.Executive.pdf

The public are indeed entitled to give notice to ask questions on any Council related topic at any Full Council, Executive or Overview and Scrutiny Committee. All meetings can now be watched both live and afterwards on TDC’s you tube channel.

The ultimate driver for the expenditure of the £9.2m is to increase the footfall in Newton Abbot town centre in both the day and evening. Unfortunately, footfall in Newton Abbot has been decreasing over recent years, even prior to covid, and in spite of a growing population in the town. This isn’t true of all towns in our District, footfall in Teignmouth has been steady for example. These towns have similar parking charges so that can’t be levelled as the reason. Also, there is spare car parking capacity in Newton Abbot. It is crucial that we improve the qualities the town centre has as a destination to visit, for reasons beyond just shopping, that will result in increased footfall. The evidence that has been accumulated about the best way to achieve this has brought about the proposals as they have been submitted.

The bid was successful and we will now embark on implementation. There is as I understand it no option to change the fundamentals of the proposals now, although detailed implementation plans have yet to be drawn up.

I hope that helps clarify where we are, and how we got here. It is a cause for great celebration that we will see a massive investment in our town centre which will ensure its future viability and boost footfall and local spending.

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