UNIMPRESSED opposition councillors have told the Tories to go back to the drawing board with plans for a multi-million pound town centre makeover.

They believe it would unhealthily compete with the nearby Festival Leisure Park.

Basildon Council is pushing ahead with proposals to create a leisure quarter in East Square, Basildon, complete with a cinema, bars and restaurants. Cabinet members have now given the go-ahead for £600,000 to be spent on the next planning stage.

This factors in the expense of drawing up fresh plans if Infrared, the owners of the Eastgate Centre, push ahead with their own ideas for a nine-screen cinema.

Meanwhile, Ukip has asked for the whole project to be thrown out as they believe it is a mess and an exact replica of the popular Festival Leisure Park – which would lead to unhealthy competition.

Kerry Smith, Ukip group leader, said: “I agree that we need to do something with the town centre, but if we go ahead with this, we are using taxpayers’ money to take a knife to the throat of the Festival Leisure Park.”

Linda Allport-Hodge, one of two Ukip councillors sitting on the cabinet, added: “The town centre remains an integral part of Basildon, and we undoubtedly need to do something to keep it alive.

“There was a cinema there many years ago and it closed because noone went to it. There needs to be more thinking.

“We would like to push for the town centre masterplan to be revised.”

Ukip are also against other schemes in the £1billion town centre masterplan, including moving the market from its home to St Martin’s Square, and building a South Essex College campus on the current market site, in Market Square.

Council bosses insist the latest £600,000 will only be used if “absolutely necessary”.

Leader Phil Turner said: “The Festival Leisure Park has been a real success, and we want to keep it that way.

“We believe two cinemas can thrive in Basildon, and we want to transform East Square in a real family affair.”

Bala Mahendran, chief executive, added: “Standing still is not an option.”