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.”

Pay on exit going live this autumn

Pay on ExitThe new pay on exit parking system is due to go live in seven Taunton car parks this autumn.

The council is working with contractors to complete the installation of equipment at the Orchard, High Street, Tangier, Canon Street, Wood Street, Castle Street and Enfield car parks.

The complex work which has included ground works, installation of barriers, machines and cabling, is due to finish by end of this month. A period of testing and training will then take place with the aim of going live in early November.  This means customers will be able to take advantage of the new arrangements in the busy Christmas period.

The Council has already installed Variable Message Signing (VMS) at key locations such as Priorswood Road, Cross Keys, Toneway, East Reach, Silk Mills and Wellington Road.

The VMS systems will help drivers to find car parks and know how many spaces are available and the type of parking – short stay, long stay and commuter. It will also avoid them having to drive around to find a suitable space and should ease queuing and reduce congestion.

Cllr Richard Parrish, Executive member for transport and parking, said: “This £1.2million scheme of significant improvements to car parks and signage should make a real difference to drivers in Taunton. VMS will really improve the flow of traffic and help drivers find the space they need quickly and efficiently, while pay on exit will mean people do not have to rush back to their cars while shopping, dining or on business in the town. This is a great example of the Council working to make parking easier for residents and visitors while improving the traffic flow and in turn reducing air pollution. I’m looking forward to seeing the improvements in place.”

A new charging regime to help with clearer pricing and designation of TDBC car parks will also come into effect with the pay on exit scheme. Changes to the designations of the car parks will give users a clear understanding of where parking is available and for how long you can stay there. There are small increases for some car parks. Other car parks will remain static in their charging for short stays, while for longer stays in the majority of car parks, it will be cheaper for most people.

Coal Orchard plans get green light

Coal Orchard Artist's Impression

The plans for the Coal Orchard were developed by the Council with its project and development management partner, Mace Group.

The plans include a mix of apartments, retail, workspace, restaurants and gym, and

incorporate a riverfront plaza with a stepped terrace to make the most of its position on the River Tone.

Work at the Coal Orchard could start as early as spring 2019 and will create the first link in a chain of developments connecting the station directly to the established town centre.

Cllr Mark Edwards, Executive Councillor for Business Development said: “The plans respect the character of Coal Orchard and will bring new vitality to the area putting the River Tone at the heart of Taunton. They are carefully created to strike a balance between retaining the character, enhancing the environment and our aspirations for growth reflecting our Garden Town status. They are a vital link in the chain of a wider plans for Taunton town centre and I am genuinely excited that they will be coming to reality. There has already been considerable interest in the commercial and retail units, and I believe there will be similar interest in the residential apartments in this unique location.”

Andrew Clancy, Projects Director from Mace Group said “We are excited by the potential of the Coal Orchard site, one that we having been working on with the Council for the past three years. We are delighted to be involved in the project, and believe that it will act as a catalyst for other regeneration projects in the town. The Council’s vision for the site has been clear for over 10 years through their adopted policies and I am proud to have personally being involved.”

St James Street Pool will be demolished but key features will be retained in the development – for example the historic foundation stone will be incorporated into the public realm scheme.

The area around the Brewhouse Theatre will also be protected for potential expansion under a separate project being led by TDBC in partnership with The Taunton Theatre Association.

New Chair-person required for Taunton Strategic Advisory Board

Taunton Strategic Advisory Board (TSAB) Would like to hear from individuals who wish to apply for the vacant Chair-person role

We are ambitious for the future of Taunton, with a comprehensive programme of developments planned. This includes upgrades to infrastructure, new space for business and innovation, new communities and green spaces and plans to further enhance the town centre. This ambition and approach recently saw Taunton awarded the prestigious Garden Town status, the first town in the South West.

The Board’s membership of senior stakeholders from the public, private and voluntary sectors reflects it role in shaping the overall economic, social and environmental wellbeing of Taunton. The purpose of the TSAB is to collectively shape Taunton’s long-term development and success as a growing, sustainable, healthy and prosperous Garden Town for current and future generations.

In this capacity, the Board’s interests will be on supporting the realisation of the vision for Taunton, and strategic matters covering inter-related themes such as:

  • Delivery of housing, employment and economic growth
  • Major infrastructure & regeneration schemes
  • The quality of the environment, social, health & cultural issues
  • Skills, education and lifelong learning
  • Innovative solutions through design and new digital technology

A Growth Prospectus for Taunton – ‘Growing our Garden Town’ – has recently been published. This document provides a ‘refreshed’ growth vision and sets out our commitments as a recently designated Garden Town, so that this can be communicated clearly to Government and others whose support is essential to delivery.
It is also intended to ‘re-galvanise’ our key partners, most of whom we are already working closely with to deliver our growth ambitions. The document sets a wide-ranging agenda for Taunton as a newly designated Garden Town, encompassing economic, social and environmental dimensions. Full Terms of Reference for the Board can be found here: Terms of Reference

To view the document and read more about the vision, please visit our new investment website: https://www.investtaunton.co.uk/the-vision/ 

The ideal candidate must be:

  • Passionate about the future of Taunton
  • An independent and effective Chair-person – experienced in working with senior representatives of a range of diverse stakeholder groups and partner organisations
  • Able to inspire and support the Board to effectively fulfil the roles and responsibilities, and ensure the group remains focussed on its overall purpose.

The Board typically meets four times a year, for approximately two hours. It is anticipated that the chair will be prepared to perform the role for up to five years.

Timeline & process:

To register your interest in this vacancy, please:

  • Provide by e-mail a copy of your resume with a covering Expression of Interest letter by 31 August 2018 to Dan Webb at TDBC: d.webb@tauntondeane.gov.uk.
  • Your Expression of Interest letter should outline the following:
    • What qualities, experience / skills you would bring to the role of Chair of the Taunton Strategic Advisory Board, if appointed
    • A brief description of your association with Taunton and your relevant business connections
    • Please clearly indicate where you see you can inspire and lead the Board and its agenda to shape Taunton’s long-term development and success as a growing, sustainable, healthy and prosperous Garden Town for current and future generations
  • A small panel comprising TDBC, plus two other members of the Advisory Board, will consider expressions of interest, hold interviews and decide on the most suitable candidate.
  • The aim is to recruit the new chair over the summer period.

Should you have any queries or wish to have an informal chat about the TSAB, please contact Dan Webb on 01823 219457, or e-mail d.webb@tauntondeane.gov.uk

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