A DECISION to borrow an extra £6.5m to fund the troubled Globe Theatre has been narrowly backed by 25 votes to 21. 

More structural problems have been uncovered at the Grade II listed Art Deco site on Stockton High Street – pushing the opening date back to November 2020 and the cost to more than £26.5m.

Contractors advised an extra £6.5m was needed to finish the job and this needed the backing of councillors on Thursday night (June 27). 

It was narrowly agreed, but not before plenty of heated debate, questions and amendments in the packed confines of the Jim Cooke Suite. 

Cllr Steve Walmsley, Thornaby Independent Association (TIA) member for Mandale and Victoria, branded the project the equivalent of London’s maligned Garden Bridge project. 

He said: “People are angry out there – we’ve got a period where people are being clobbered for all kinds of things and we see this £22.5m – it’s a big deal.

“What galls a lot of people more than anything is the money poured into this high street, which must be touching about £200m now in the last 15 to 20 years, is being subsidised by the rest of the borough. 

“When does that finish? It’s a comedy errors.”

Conservative Cllr Matt Vickers called for the vote to be pushed back to a later date with an amendment for the Globe decision to go to the scrutiny committee with an external audit of The Globe restoration.

The member for Hartburn added: “The Globe could bring benefits to the town, I would love to see a theatre oin Stockton High Street open its doors and a packed auditorium and the economic benefits promised.

“But that’s not to say it should have a blank cheque from the taxpayer.”

Cllr Nigel Cooke, cabinet member for regeneration and housing, warned the consequences of not going ahead would be dire. 

“This is certainly no garden bridge – it’s going to happen, it’s not a figment of someone’s imagination,” he said. 

“If the council was to delay this, the stark reality is we’ve still got a listed building we’re responsible for – we’ve still got the lease on that building.

“Every day this is delayed, there is a risk costs will go up. The cost of steel goes up on a monthly basis.

“If this project was to fail, not only would we have responsibility for that building we’d have a lease on, there is also the potential we may have to pay back that hard won Heritage Lottery money.” 

Cllr Vickers’ amendment failed by 24 votes to 22 with Fairfield and Yarm independents Andrew Sherris, Bill Woodhead and Maurice Perry voting with Labour.

A subsequent effort by Ingleby Barwick independent Cllr Ted Strike also failed ahead of the main vote. 

The cost of repairing the Globe rose to more than £20m late last year after contractors uncovered unsupported walls and rotting timbers when it was stripped back to the bare bones.  

But the problems have mounted – with more work on the foundations and roof needed alongside difficulties getting machinery inside.

Troubles at neighbouring 153 High Street connected to the old theatre site have also added to the delays and spiralling cost. 

Jomast still owns the site, with the authority paying £70,000 a year in a lease which lasts until 2056. 

There is an option in the contract for the council to bring the site back into public hands in March 2031 for £200,000 plus the 2017 market value of 153 High Street. 

Almost £1m will have been spent on the lease by then. 

The extra £6.5m of borrowing will cost the council £325,000 per year – taking the taxpayer contribution to £22.25m alongside £4.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund. 

However, council bosses say the theatre will bring 200,000 visitors to the town centre extra and offer an annual boost of £18m to Stockton’s economy.

Ahead of the main debate, Labour council leaders met to give the £6.5m plan their backing in cabinet. 

Cllr Cooke said future generations would not forgive them if they didn’t push ahead. . 

He added: “Everybody else will benefit and I’m convinced people will come from far and wide to be entertained at The Globe. 

“I’m reliably informed this is a really rare building – it’s a national treasure. 

“To let it go would be akin to the Mayor of Middlesbrough selling the Transporter Bridge for scrap – it’s emotional.”