Jackie Hook

Liberal Democrat County Councillor Newton Abbot North, District Councillor Bushell Ward Learn more

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Teignbridge Council accept £9.2m government funding for Newton Abbot town centre

by Jackie Hook on 26 April, 2021

Future High Street Fund

Teignbridge District Full Council last week voted to accept the offer of £9.2m of government funding for the improvement of Newton Abbot town centre. The funding from the Future High Street Fund will be supplemented by TDC and DCC monies to deliver the bid proposals.

Councillors at the Full Council meeting also recommended that continued stakeholder engagement and public consultation take place, on the detailed design of the elements of the bid components.

This represents a fantastic opportunity for Newton Abbot to define its role as the premier town of the area, serving not only the needs of its own residents but those of the surrounding area and visitors to our District. Enabling businesses of all kinds to prosper, the environment of our town centre to be improved and the quality of life for all residents to be enhanced.

The detail of the proposals can be viewed on TDC webpage, and can be found in the link below, including the results of public consultation on the proposals

https://www.teignbridge.gov.uk/community-and-people/major-projects-and-regeneration/future-high-street-fund/

They include,

  • Combining and transforming the 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
  • Attracting investment in these important heritage buildings to make the Markets Quarter a more attractive destination
  • Changes to attract greater footfall and increase the time visitors spend in the area, extending into the evening, and so supporting the wider town centre economy
  • Opening up access and making improvements to the Market Square to allow events to take place, including greening the area and providing seating.
  • Widening of pavements, greening, more outdoor seating and better access for those with disabilities along Queen Street
  • A reduction of the dominance of the motor vehicle in Queen Street by the removal of some of the parking, but an increase in disabled parking
  • Improved surface markings, signage and safety at junctions along the National Cycle Network route through the centre of Newton Abbot, increased cycle parking provision and alteration of the pedestrian crossing outside the rail station to a crossing suitable for pedestrians and cyclists.

This feels like the culmination of a journey which began with a vision expressed by the people of Newton Abbot in the town’s Community Plan of 2008. This Community Plan provided the context for the Newton Abbot Neighbourhood Plan which was drawn up in conjunction with the people of the town and voted for by them in a referendum in 2016 following an extensive public consultation process.

The priorities for the residents of the town as voiced through the Plan are,

–           To facilitate initiatives which maintain and improve the quality and socio-economic viability of the town

–           To open up better cross town connections for walking and cycling

–           To Green the streets through tree, shrub and flower planting

–           To address traffic issues in the town centre, including the potential for the remodelling of traffic priorities in Queen St

–           And To encourage the development of an evening economy

All those elements of the Town’s shared vision and priorities for the town centre are reflected in the 4 elements of the Future High Street proposals.

In addition to the support that the town’s Neighbourhood Plan gives to the proposals, the District Council carried out its own public consultation last Summer. The consultation received an excellent response rate with clear majority support for all 4 elements of the proposals. Changes were made to the details of the proposals as a result of the consultation eg. more parking is to be kept at the eastern end of Queen Street.

We can therefore proceed, confident that we have the majority support of the town’s residents, and confident that this District Council is delivering the residents wishes.

However, it is important that we continue to consult on the fine detail of the proposals to ensure we achieve the best outcome not only for current residents, businesses and visitors but those of the future. We must continue to listen and seek to allow for differences of opinion about the detail of the way forward, but without losing the overall transformational vision that is behind these well thought out and interlinked proposals. This I am sure is the collective desire of all stakeholders.

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 as stated in the bid 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. Recent concerns re the loss of the theatre have resulted in more detailed discussions with the Groups representing the theatre, and these discussions are ongoing.

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.

I have no hesitation whatsoever in welcoming this funding and the basics of the proposals as the start of our journey to transform our town into that unique centre and community hub of the future. 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.

A clear majority of councillors could see the benefit of this significant government funded investment in our town centre. Sadly, some did not and voted against accepting the offer of government funding, and for your information these were, Cllrs, Mullone, Bradford, Daws, Hocking, Jeffery, Patch, Parker-Khan and Colclough.

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