The Future High Streets Fund

There is a lot in the news from the campaign to “Save the Alex theatre”. Unfortunately there seems to be some confusion about what is happening. TDC have secured £9 million in funding from the future high streets fund to regenerate Newton Abbot town centre with an outline plan to include, improvements for walking and cycling in the town centre and building a new 4 screen cinema freeing up the current Alex cinema building to be combined with the market as a versatile space for market, performance and food.

It seems that some supporters of the theatre have taken a very rigid view, insisting that the current space must remain completely walled off from the market as a permanent traditional theatre.

It must be said that a decade of austerity has seen savage cuts to local government funding. TDC has essential services to deliver. Aspirational projects such as this must be funded, and every asset must be used to its maximum value. Funding has been obtained on the basis of a combined space which improves the market area as well as providing performance space.

There is an alternative business plan for a self contained theatre but there is a £500k funding gap and ongoing liabilities. It isn’t clear the theatre space would be used enough.

There is concern about the credibility of Quarterbridge the consultants. They were successful in the procurement process for the consultancy. If a management company was sought for the market there would be another procurement process. There is no VIP lane here.

I am concerned that the interior details are still not defined, and yet we were asked to agree the budget and give authority for the remainder of the project. I would not be supporting that, but our group brought an amendment to create a steering group to ensure continuing engagement and scrutiny.

Cllr Patch proposed a 6 month delay in the decision. I cannot support this since the £9 million grant must be drawn down and spent within 2 years. This amendment would have jeopardised the entire regeneration project.

It was proposed to exclude the Alex from the proposal but again, this would jeopardise the entire project.

I think the best way forward is to accept the funding, and work within the framework laid down for the project, which does include creating a combined versatile space, but is still very open about the exact form that will take. I would like to see as many theatre features as possible retained, but it will be a compromise. I hope the supporters of the theatre engage with the steering group to make the project the best that we can.