Taunton Town Centre Public Space Improvements

The Council is moving ahead with plans to make Taunton town centre more user friendly, improving the area for pedestrians and cyclists in line with its status as the first Garden Town in the South West.

Phase one covering the permanent closure of St James Street between North Street and Lower Middle Street will begin in the New Year.

It will be followed by phase two which will see an 18-month trial closure of Hammet Street and East Street to all vehicles except buses and cyclists.

Taunton Deane Borough Council and Somerset County Council are currently working on the finer details of the proposed phase two changes with the appointed transport and urban design specialists WSP

A further dedicated consultation will be held for East Street, where the local community can put thoughts forward about the proposed designs. If the trial is successful, the permanent changes to both East Street and Hammet Street will follow as quickly as possible.

The public space project will generate opportunities for businesses, event organisers and artists to explore creative uses of the town’s most attractive areas.  It forms part of a much wider plan to enhance Taunton’s appeal along with the regeneration of Coal Orchard and Firepool.

Cllr Richard Parrish, Executive member for Planning Policy and Transportation, said: “Taunton becoming a Garden Town gave us a real opportunity to review our town centre and look at how we can create a better environment for residents, shoppers and visitors, which will help attract investment and allow businesses to thrive.

We’ve seen this work well in other areas, and we’re keen that traffic is redirected to more appropriate routes. We want to free up space for new and improved public areas that are attractive and inviting for everyone with fewer vehicles, less pollution and reduced noise.”

Cllr David Fothergill, Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “We’re pleased to be working alongside Taunton Deane Borough Council to support their aspirations to improve the town in keeping with its status as the first Garden Town in the South West. This scheme is all about enhancing the visitor experience in Taunton and making it more appealing for pedestrians and cyclists.”

The Traffic Regulation Order and commencement of the statutory consultation period relating to the closure of St James Street will be published on 22 November.

Further information on the TRO process and an opportunity to make representations can be found at:

http://www.somerset.gov.uk/roads-parking-and-transport/road-works/tro/

To accompany this stage of works, a webpage dedicated to the Public Space Improvement Project is now live. This can be found at

www.investtaunton.co.uk/publicspace

This website contains background information on the project, and an FAQ section relating to the proposed works, and the wider context of town centre improvements that TDBC are committed to in the near future.

 

Artist Impression of St James's Street

Keys To Business Success On Offer

Business owners and would-be business start-ups are invited to an event in Bridgwater this month that could make all the difference to their success.

The event from 2pm to 7pm on Monday November 19th at J24 – The Venue includes a talk from business growth specialist John McCarthy at 6pm as well as ‘on-tap’ professional advice and guidance from a team of experts.

Organised by councils from Taunton Deane, West Somerset and Sedgemoor, the event aims to give a vital kick-start to the hundreds of small firms, one-person bands and entrepreneurs with great ideas that are based in the districts.

Doors at J24 – The Venue open at 2pm on the day and visitors will be greeted by representatives from the councils who will be supported by colleagues from planning and revenues.

Organisations with stands at the event include Heart of the South West Growth Hub, Somerset Business Agency, Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses and Somerset Energy Innovation Centre.

One of the organisers, Gordon Dwyer, senior economic development officer with Taunton and West Somerset said: “There is some first class business support available in the area but for people starting out on their business journey it can be a confusing picture.

“We have listened to our businesses and we thought an event like this one would help them understand what is available and which services are most suitable for their needs. It will also be a valuable opportunity to meet others in the same situation as themselves.”

“We know it is often difficult for businesses with only a handful of staff or sole traders to get away from their work which is why we have planned this event as a ‘drop in’ and timed it from after lunch into the evening”.

The event is free to attend and there is no need to book a place.

For more details, contact Hattie Winter on h.winter@tauntondeane.gov.uk

Brewhouse ambitions being realised

BrewhouseTaunton Deane Borough Council (TDBC) and Taunton Theatre Association (TTA) have announced the appointment of MICA Architects to redevelop The Brewhouse Theatre & Arts Centre on the Coal Orchard site.

The news was revealed today (Friday 5 October) during a visit to the riverside venue by the Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC, the newly appointed Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

TDBC who own the arts centre and the operator TTA, have been working on plans to expand and revitalise the 70s building into a flagship, multi-purpose arts venue fit for generations to come.

MICA is a leading architectural practice responsible for the Southbank Masterplan, Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, Fairfield Halls restoration, National Maritime Museum and Horniman Museum in the UK. MICA will work in partnership with theatre and acoustic specialist, Sound Space Vision, whose international portfolio includes Theatre Royal (Bath), Dubai Opera House and Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (Toronto, Canada).

Cllr Mark Edwards, whose portfolio includes the arts, culture and business, said: “This investment represents the council’s commitment to regenerating Taunton Town Centre and its appreciation of the positive cultural, economic and social impact that such arts projects have on people living, working, visiting and studying in the region. These plans play a central part in the regeneration of the Coal Orchard creating a vibrant and thriving centre on the River Tone.”

The improved venue will include an enlarged main auditorium and flexible studio theatre to enable a greater programme of live performances, with improved acoustics and better facilities for national touring productions. The revitalised arts centre will wrap around parts of the existing building, working in harmony to preserve the adjoining listed 18th century house.  This will provide a range of new spaces including performing and visual art studios, cinema, cafe and gallery while making the most of the river frontage and creating the potential for pop-up performances and events.

TTA are in already in talks with several service providers and arts organisations who are anticipated to reside in or utilise the rejuvenated facility, creating a thriving cultural hub in the heart of Taunton.

Vanessa Lefrancois, Chief Executive of TTA, said: “I am in no doubt that this redevelopment project, will unlock Taunton’s potential and act as a catalyst for the regeneration of the County Town.  We are confident MICA and their partner Sound Space Vision will deliver the Council’s and TTA’s shared aspiration for this exciting development.  Such projects require thoughtful consideration and investment, in order for our communities to reap the significant cultural, social and economic benefits they can deliver. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with TDBC to deliver a beautiful, bespoke, multi-purpose arts centre that the people of Somerset will be immensely proud of and enjoy.

Stuart Cade, MICA Director, said: “We relish the opportunity to work with Taunton Deane Borough Council and the Taunton Theatre Association to realise their ambitions for this beautiful site by the River Tone. MICA bring expertise in performing arts, in historic building, in public realm, and in leading wider project teams on complex cultural projects, with proven success in delivery – on time and to budget.. As a team, we work across the UK embedding ourselves in our client’s location and context, taking pride in the co-production of their aspirations to create uplifting environments for local communities.”

The capital cost for the project is fixed at £12million and the project is planned to be delivered by autumn 2022.

Businesses to have their say on hotel proposals

Taunton Deane Borough Council’s business consultation seeking views on the proposed hotel at Firepool is being run throughout October.

The Council’s Planning Committee resolved in March 2018 to grant outline planning consent for a mixed use development at Firepool, including a new hotel.   The separate decision to build the hotel as a council led commercial venture was deferred in order to consult with local businesses.

The Council has now produced a leaflet with information about the project, the reasons for it and the benefits it is expected to bring.  It also explains the wider commercial approach the council is taking and how the proposed hotel investment is part of that.

Points raised by businesses from the consultation will help to inform the Council’s approach to the hotel project and other commercial ventures that the Council may develop in the future.

Cllr John Williams, Leader of the Council said: “The proposed hotel is a key part of our plans for the regeneration of Taunton town centre and could be a huge asset, bringing significant money into the local economy and creating jobs at both the construction and operational stages for local people.

However we respect that local businesses want to have their say and are keen to hear their opinions through this consultation. Following the departure of St Modwen as the Council’s development partner at Firepool, we are also taking the opportunity to reflect and listen to different ideas coming forward locally in shaping and developing this important town centre site.”

The business consultation will run from Monday 1st October to Wednesday 31st October. All the details and a link to the consultation can be found on the consultation page of Council’s website https://www.tauntondeane.gov.uk/consultations/

Firepool: A New Future

Taunton Deane Borough Council (TDBC) and St. Modwen have been development partners for the Firepool site for the past nine years.  Following a review it has now been decided to end the partnership.

During the partnership, St. Modwen has worked tirelessly with TDBC, investing St. Modwen expertise and resource to bring forward delivery of the development to reflect the joint aspirations for this important town centre site.

In view of ongoing major changes in external market conditions, the Council respects St. Modwen’s decision to focus its business on commercial/industrial and residential developments, rather than the mixed use, town centre regeneration scheme proposed for Firepool.

It is important to stress what has been achieved by the partnership over recent years: this has included the Viridor HQ offices employing hundreds of staff, 49 new homes with high quality public space next to the River Tone, as well as securing outline planning consent on a very difficult site that will underpin future delivery.

The resolution to grant outline planning consent in March 2018 provides an important foundation for any future development, incorporating issues such as quality of design across the site, frontage to the river and other high profile areas, and traffic and transport management.  It also provides the basis for continued discussion with a number of interested occupiers and flexibility to consider other potential uses within the overall mix.   The Council will be taking these discussions forward and will also listen and consider views from the community in shaping and delivering this key town centre scheme.

“We remain fully committed to developing a high quality mixed use regeneration scheme for Firepool, providing a fantastic riverside environment and creating strong links between the town centre and the railway station”, said Cllr John Williams, Leader of the Council.

Cllr Williams added: “Taunton’s wider regeneration and our focus on growing our Garden Town is already under way. In the town centre, the Coal Orchard site has received detailed planning consent to be transformed into a thriving mixed use new place on the river.   The enhancement of Taunton Railway Station – creating a new south facing gateway to the town – will begin in 2019, complementing the introduction of modern, more frequent and faster trains connecting Taunton to London and other major towns and cities”.

“These projects are examples of an increasingly commercial approach where we are investing directly to create social and economic benefit as well as generating financial return for investment in community services.  The end of the partnership between the Council and St Modwen will not affect the Council’s intention to deliver such schemes and develop our commercial approach further.”

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