PROGRESS FOR FIREPOOL AS PLANNING CONSENT IS GRANTED

Taunton’s Town Centre regeneration took a major step forward yesterday, when the revised outline plans for the £105m scheme to transform the Firepool site were approved by Taunton Deane Borough Council’s Planning Committee (14 March 2018).

Firepool is an integral part of the wider economic regeneration plans for Taunton with the potential to create in excess of 1,700 jobs as well as providing office, hotel and residential accommodation and supporting waterfront leisure and retail outlets. The recent planning consent follows many months of detailed consultations between lead developer, St. Modwen, and relevant statutory consultees.

Commenting on this landmark decision, Pete Davies, Commercial Director for St. Modwen, said:
“As a regional and national developer with a strong track record in creating sustainable new communities, we are continually striving to transform places to create better futures. This positive outline planning decision will now enable us to work alongside Taunton Deane Borough Council to provide one of the largest mixed-use schemes in the South West and a lasting legacy for the town.”

Cllr Mark Edwards, Deputy Leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council and responsible for business development, said:
“We have a proud history – but we are looking to a prouder future. This scheme to transform Firepool will make the most of our superb riverside environment and create a regional destination for retail, business, leisure and culture for generations to come. It will include high quality pedestrian and cycle links between the railway station and Coal Orchard, and from there into the town centre. This reinforces much improved access to these areas which are themselves coming forward for regeneration as part of our wider Taunton Garden Town Strategy.”

Cllr John Williams, Leader of the Council, added:
“I know how much people want to see this largely derelict site developed. It is key to our overall Garden Town strategy that puts the River Tone back at the heart of the town and, most importantly, will provide new jobs and facilities for our residents. It will also cement our place as a regional centre with excellent links to London and beyond. Taunton is one of the fastest growing towns in the region, the only Garden Town in the South West and has the advantage of excellent road and rail connections, top quality schools and further education, first class medical facilities, great urban open spaces and superb countryside and coast on its doorstep. We need to be competitive and provide high quality facilities to attract continued inward investment and satisfy the needs of its growing population and the mix of uses proposed achieves just that.”

Green light for £18m upgrade of M5 Junction 25

Multi-million pound plans to upgrade Junction 25 of the M5 have moved a step closer following today’s decision to grant planning permission.
Junction 25 is the main access point to Taunton and also provides a critical link to the second strategic route into the South West – via the A358 and A303.
Somerset County Council has been working with partners to develop a scheme to increase the capacity of this vital link to improve traffic flow, ease peak hour congestion and unlock land for employment.
Members of the Council’s Regulation Committee met today to consider the application and voted by a majority to approve the plans.
Cllr John Woodman, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “Today’s decision is a significant milestone and great news for the thousands of motorists who use Junction 25 every day.
“It is also great news for Somerset’s business community, with these plans being integral to unlocking nearby land for development.
“The hard work now continues and we’ll be hoping to see diggers in the ground by this time next year.”
The scheme involves full signalisation and enlarging of the roundabout, widening of the eastern exit, a new roundabout to access the proposed Nexus 25 employment site, and improved pedestrian and cycling facilities.
It is expected to cost around £18m with allocated funding of £12.9m from the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Deal Fund, Taunton Deane Borough Council, Highways England, and developer contributions.
Junction 25 currently experiences congestion in both peak hours, with queues frequently extending along the A358 in both directions and occasionally backed up onto the M5.
The upgrade aims to improve journey times, reduce congestion, improve Park & Ride journey time reliability and create a more attractive access to Taunton, Yeovil and the A303 from the M5. The scheme will also unlock access into the proposed Nexus 25 employment site and support other planned growth across Taunton.
Councillor John Williams, Leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council, said: “The enhancement of Junction 25 and development of the Nexus 25 Strategic Employment Site represents a significant opportunity to bring new business and investment to Somerset and Taunton in a unique environment that supports innovation, collaboration and productivity.”
“We are committed to provide the high quality, long-term jobs that our economy needs. Taunton is growing and it is essential we deliver a balanced economy of housing, jobs and leisure together with improved infrastructure to match.
“It is great that J25 upgrade has received consent as it is not only vital to cope with growth across the town but is the “trigger” required to validate the Local Development Order (LDO) approval for Nexus 25.”
Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, Steve Hindley CBE DL said: “I am very pleased to see this important junction improvement get underway which will help us improve connectivity to the Heart of the South West, a factor, that’s crucial to the area’s productivity and growth.
“The A303 is a strategic route into the HotSW area and has been historically under-invested in; a situation which is being partially addressed by increased dualling in sections, so by increasing the capacity of the junction with the M5 will help to improve the efficiency of the route from the south and south east into the south west. It also gives better access to new employments sites as well as better cycling and pedestrian facilities that are all part of the LEP’s vision for investing in infrastructure to generate growth.”
Local Growth Minister, Jake Berry, said: “Growth Deal funding is paving the way for major transport and infrastructure improvements across the country. With these multi-million pound improvements to Junction 25 of the M5, motorists will soon be reaping the benefits of reduced congestion and improved access to a key route on the UK’s road network.”
These designs have been developed alongside Highways England and take into account HE’s ongoing proposals to upgrade the A358. The improvements will provide benefits if the road system stays the same or if it changes in future. You can see Somerset County Council’s response to the current A358 consultation at http://www.somerset.gov.uk/policies-and-plans/schemes-and-initiatives/a30-a303-a358-improvement-project/.
The next step will be for the County Council to go out to tender over the summer. Construction is likely to take up to two years with work expected to start during winter 2018/19.

Press Release Source: Somerset County Council March 2018

£7.2m secured for Staplegrove

A £7.2m bid for Government funding to help unlock a new Garden Community development in Staplegrove, Taunton, and deliver vital infrastructure – a road, more affordable housing and enabling a new primary school – has been successful.

The Government announced today that the council’s £7.2m bid submitted by Taunton Deane Borough Council’s bid to its Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) is among those across the country to be awarded funding.

The money will help towards the early delivery of the £8m “spine road” to connect the A358 Staplegrove Road and Kingston Road, more affordable housing and enable the delivery of a much needed new primary school.

The funding is particularly important in terms of affordable housing, raising numbers from 15% of the total to 25%.

The road – and other infrastructure – is key to developing two sites at Staplegrove that received outline planning consent late last year.

It is tremendous – to say the least – that we have been successful in securing this hugely important money for our Garden Town development,” said Cllr John Williams, Leader of the council. It will ensure that we can deliver tangible solutions to the concerns raised by so many in the community.

We have an excellent track record in securing external funding, either on our own initiative or in partnership with others. I am grateful for the support of SCC and Taunton’s MP Rebecca Pow who also arranged a visit to the site by the Housing Minister to hear and view first hand, how critical this funding was for the community.

“Last but not least we must express our thanks and appreciation to all who put the bid together and presented such a compelling case. This award from the HIF Marginal Viability Fund will help to deliver the spine road – essential for the two developments at Staplegrove and bring forward this new Garden Community.”

The council resolved to grant outline consent for up to 915 homes, a primary school, employment land, local centre and open space on land at Staplegrove (east). The application was submitted by PM Asset Management Ltd.

A similar application submitted by Ptarmigan Staplegrove Ltd was for up to 713 homes, employment land, green infrastructure, landscaping, play area and sustainable urban drainage systems at Staplegrove (west).

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced that the investment for schemes nationwide “will fund key local infrastructure projects including new roads, cycle paths, flood defences and land remediation work, all essential ahead of building the homes.

“Without this financial support these projects would struggle to go ahead or take years for work to begin, delaying the homes communities need. Together with the government’s Industrial Strategy, it will provide high-quality infrastructure to support economic growth.”

Boost for Nexus 25 employment site

TAUNTON’s planned strategic employment site – Nexus 25 – has gained a major boost within days of the Borough Council’s decision resolving to approve the Local Development Order (LDO).

The site, offering direct access to the M5, is crucial to Taunton Deane Borough Council’s ambitious growth and development plans that go hand-in-hand with its status as the South West’s only Garden Town.

Summerfield Developments – which owns the 61-acre site – has announced that Henry Boot developments has been selected to bring forward the employment site which has the potential to create 3,000 jobs locally.

“This is the best start we could wish for in 2018,” said Cllr Mark Edwards, deputy leader of the council and lead member for business development. “It is good to hear that Henry Boot Developments describes Nexus 25 as ‘pivotal’ and a catalyst for the town, securing its place as one of the region’s major growth centres.

“It is a hugely exciting scheme and underlines our commitment to Taunton Deane as the place to do business with provision of high quality jobs. Taunton is growing and as the best connected town in the South West for business, it is essential we deliver a balanced economy of housing, jobs and leisure together with improved infrastructure to match.”

Nexus 25 will provide a range of flexible premises providing space for research and development, health, education, and digital technology alongside high quality offices, light industrial units and warehouses. Designed as a ‘Green Campus,’ the site will include walkways and landscaping to create an environment in line with Taunton’s Garden Town status.

The LDO was prepared by Peter Brett Associates (PBA) and LHC Design on behalf of the council. The documents set out the planning and design principles and other site-specific requirements which will guide the development of the Nexus 25 site.

The plans for Nexus 25 were unveiled in March this year and this was followed by an informal consultation and a subsequent statutory consultation where residents and other stakeholders were invited to comment on the LDO. The Council took account of all responses received and, after meeting to discuss the plans for Nexus 25, voted to approve plans to adopt the LDO.

The LDO will be implemented once improvements at J25 are confirmed. Money has been provided for this work and the scheme is currently awaiting planning approval from Somerset County Council.
LDOs were introduced by the Government to enable local planning authorities to speed up the implementation of planned developments, while ensuring that all the usual environmental safeguards are applied.

Mary Crew, PBA Associate, said: “The resolution to approve the LDO is a positive step for Taunton and for the planning process as a whole. LDOs are a significant move towards simplifying the planning process, creating a more certain planning environment which is attractive to investors. LDOs, as seen here with the development of the Nexus 25 site, can secure positive growth for an area while retaining all the environmental protections provided by traditional planning permissions.”

The proposals for Nexus 25 have been developed by a team drawn from the public and private sectors. Key partners include the Borough Council, Somerset County Council, the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, Highways England, the Environment Agency, Summerfield Developments and Henry Boot Developments.

‘Lost Lines’ report ignites hope for Wellington

GOVERNMENT proposals that could see the reopening of rail routes lost half a century ago are being welcomed by Taunton Deane Borough Council.

The authority has been working with partners, including local MP Rebecca Pow, towards the reopening of Wellington station that shut in 1964 under the Beeching axe.

The council wants to see a Metro-style link opened to connect with Taunton and Exeter and helped to fund a business case for the bid, working with neighbouring councils in Devon, Somerset County Council, the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the MP.

The link would also see a new station opening at Cullompton in Mid Devon as part of the joint project.

Cllr Mark Edwards, deputy leader of the Borough Council, has led the campaign and welcomed the announcement from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling today (Wednesday November 29) that lines closed in the 1960s could be reopened.

Cllr Edwards said: “Today’s report is very welcome – we have genuine support for our proposal to reopen Wellington’s station and reconnect the town to the rail network.

“Extensive work has taken place on possible network timetabling – and that has confirmed that the proposal is definitely feasible.

“We are now carrying out more detailed work on the business case and are hopeful that it will be ready in the spring.

“Wellington is a growing town and the station would provide a real lifeline to residents and businesses.”

Wellington Station first opened in 1843 but fell victim to Dr Beeching, chairman of the British Transport Commission, who recommended mass cuts to the nation’s loss-making railways. More than 2,000 railway stations closed as a result.

 

Nexus 25: The next steps

Plans to create a high quality employment site on the outskirts of Taunton – with the potential to create thousands of jobs – are moving forward.

Taunton Deane Borough Council is working with public and private sector partners to deliver the strategic employment site – Nexus 25 – at J25 of the M5 motorway.

The development is being created as a ‘green campus.’ Space for a variety of uses such as research and development and high quality offices, alongside light industrial units and warehouses will provide a range of flexible premises suitable for many types of business. More than 3,000 jobs could be created at the site, boosting Taunton’s role as a major growth centre in the South West.

Walkways and landscaping including tree planting will create an environment in line with Taunton’s new Garden Town status.

The Borough Council is using a Government planning mechanism to fast-track the process – a Local Development Order (LDO). LDOs were introduced by the Government to enable local authorities to speed up the planning process, while ensuring that the usual environmental safeguards are properly applied.

It also allows the Council to have greater control and give greater guidance on what is being sought from a development rather than just waiting for what might be submitted to the Council as a planning application.

Ultimately it will help increase the likelihood of development being achieved; it could make it happen more quickly; and will allow the Council to give better guidance on the types of development that would be acceptable.

The council held two consultations on the LDO: informally in March 2017 when the nature of the proposals were set out and representations invited on a number of questions about the proposals; the second, statutory consultation took place over six weeks, rather than the prescribed four, ending on August 31.

All responses to the consultation will now be considered by the Council’s Community Scrutiny Committee on 14 November. The Committee will make recommendations to be considered by Full Council in December when members will decide whether to adopt the LDO and agree to officers’ recommendations of approval.

 

If adopted, the LDO could not be implemented until improvements at J25 are confirmed. Money has been provided for this work and the scheme is currently awaiting planning approval from Somerset County Council.
Cllr Roger Habgood, Executive member for planning policy, said using a Local Development Order was the right choice for the site.

“LDOs were introduced by the Government to enable local planning authorities such as Taunton Deane to speed up the implementation of planned development, while ensuring that all the usual safeguards are applied.

“Once approved by the Council, the LDO will set out the extent and nature of the proposed development together with all the criteria and requirements that proposals must meet to satisfy the terms of the Order. Developers must demonstrate to the Council that their proposals satisfy the requirements of the LDO before they can proceed. In essence, it gives us far greater control at an earlier stage.”

“The fact that the Local Economic Partnership (LEP) has allocated significant funding for the road improvements demonstrates the importance of this site to the local and regional economy,” said Cllr Mark Edwards, Deputy Leader and Executive member for business development.

Leader of the Council, John Williams, added: “We, are committed to provide the high quality, long-term jobs that our economy needs. Taunton is growing and it is essential we deliver a balanced economy of housing, jobs and leisure tog with improved infrastructure to match.”

There has been extensive preparatory work on floodplain modelling work, transport issues and a full environmental statement. The effect of carrying out this work is to take control of the process, enhancing the attractiveness of the development to those looking to develop new employment sites, in a competitive market, and also to shorten the likely timescale before new jobs come to fruition.

Accessibility