BRAKES have been slammed on plans to restore Newton Abbot’s Alexandra Theatre, which is due to be part of a massive redevelopment of the town centre. 

Conservative councillors on Lib-Dem controlled Teignbridge Council have ‘called in’ a decision to press ahead with the restoration, which was made in October by the executive committee which voted to ‘Save the Alex’ instead of pushing on with plans to build a massive new cinema in the town centre.

They said it would be ‘utterly astonishing and a transformational change for Newton Abbot’ and campaigners fighting to save the old theatre celebrated. 

The council pledged up to £70,000 to move plans on to the next stage, with government Future High Streets fund money earmarked for the bulk of the scheme.

The decision to ‘call in’ the decision comes amid claims the executive committee overstepped the mark.

Conservative group leader Phil Bullivant (Bradley) made the call, which means the issue will be debated again by the overview and scrutiny committee next week.

The committee has the options to change its course of action, refer the matter to the full council, or to press on regardless.

Cllr Bullivant is being supported by six other Tory councillors.

He says the October decision exceeded the executive’s powers and the use of funds doesn’t represent good value. 

The proposed plan, he says, has already been rejected previously by the full council, and was brought in without time for it to be properly evaluated.

Council leader Martin Wrigley (Lib Dem, Dawlish NE) said Cllr Bullivant’s challenge had ‘halted progress’ on a scheme which was time-sensitive because of deadlines to claim government cash.

Cllr Gary Taylor (Lib Dem, Kenton and Starcross) said the call-in was ’disappointing’ and the October decision was ‘perfectly reasonable’

Then, the executive committee of the council voted unanimously to refurbish the ‘Alex’ after hearing that the new cinema plans were both a ‘dead duck’ and a ‘white elephant’. 

A new grassroots advisory group to explore future options is being set up, to include councillors and community representatives.

Cllr Wrigley summed up: ‘I believe none of the reasons for the call-in holds water.’