A SURPRISE decision to save a much-loved Devon theatre and cinema could create a legacy for generations to come.
That’s the opinion of the leader of the South Devon Alliance party after Teignbridge Council voted unanimously to abandon plans for a new cinema in Newton Abbot and concentrate resources on the town’s Alexandra Theatre instead.
Members of the Teignbridge executive committee had been considering plans for a new four-screen cinema in the town as part of a package of improvements funded by the government’s Future High Streets Fund (FHSF).
But the cinema project was described by councillors as both a ‘white elephant’ and a ‘dead duck’, and the committee decided to shift its focus onto the old cinema building instead.
The decision sparked delight for campaigners whose ‘Save the Alex’ protests and petitions grabbed the headlines. And South Devon Alliance leader Richard Daws (Ambrook) said the decision to ditch the ‘shipping container’ cinema design was the right one.
It means making the ‘Alex’ into a year-round arts venue and community hub, hosting film, theatre, conferences, live streaming and other events.
Cllr Daws said: ‘There are challenges to overcome to create a plan that is viable, but the aim to repurpose elements of the £9.2 million FHSF for the town and district is highly welcome.
‘It is fair to say the campaign to keep the Alexandra Theatre alive has achieved its main aims.’
A new steering group made up of local retailers and community representatives will meet later this week to discuss next steps.
Cllr Daws said the decision could pave the way for more changes, including amending the proposed traffic plan for Queen Street in Newton Abbot. Supporters say the project will cut traffic in the town centre and ensure its long-term future, but many traders believe it will kill their business.
Cllr Daws went on: ‘The council’s executive has listened to the residents and traders in making this change. We now need to push for the same engagement on other elements of the FHSF project and that will allow us to save Queen Street too.
‘We have it within our grasp to take the residents and traders of the district with us on a regeneration of Newton Abbot that will create a positive legacy for generations to come.’