FEARS have been raised Basildon’s Towngate Theatre could be lost if a new 5,000 seat arena is built on the Westgate Shopping Centre.

Basildon Council's cabinet have voted in favour of purchasing the town centre shopping centre for £21.5million with councillors talked through a range of options including an arena, a hotel, or care home on Thursday night.

However, concerns have now been raised that creating a grand new arena could spell the end of the road for the beloved theatre.

Just last year councillors approved a £700,000 investment in the 1960s theatre after it was revealed it is “nearing the end of its life”.

The investment was planned to secure its future as the town’s “cultural centre”, however it is now feared it could be bulldozed.

Adele Brown, deputy leader, admitted “nothing is off the table” when questioned on the future of the theatre.

Billericay West councillor, Phil Turner said that he believes Labour “would be happy to see the back of the Towngate Theatre” despite the public’s “respect” for the venue.

He said: “Labour constructed the Towngate without enough seats to be commercially viable and it was to be a small provincial theatre, which has left it struggling to make its running costs.

“We were keen on maintaining it and Labour would be happy to see the back of it, though for all its faults the Towngate does have a lot of respect from the public. However, I don’t believe their masterplan does include the Towngate.”

Ms Brown, who is also councillor responsible for planning and infrastructure, questioned if the Towngate Theatre is “really ambitious enough for Basildon”.

She said: “At the moment there is nothing off the table.

“To look at the infrastructure and leisure as a whole for the town centre, all availabilities will be considered, whether that is the cinema or the theatre, they will be looked at and future proofed as part of the plan.

“While there is no immediate plan, we are going to have discussions, is that theatre really ambitious enough for Basildon? We have ambitions for that part of the town centre and an arena, hotel and lots of other options were put forward at the meeting.

“Look at the town centre and what it once was, we feel that action needs to be taken.”