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.”

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.”

‘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.

 

Staplegrove Development

Taunton Deane Borough Council’s planning committee has resolved to grant outline planning consent for two developments at Staplegrove on the outskirts of Taunton.

The applications are 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).

Both applications included provision for a spine road to connect the A358 Staplegrove Road and Kingston Road. The Council has recently submitted a bid to the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund, which would help to secure the early delivery of the spine road and wider community infrastructure. The outcome of this bid is expected in the coming months.

The applications were initially considered by the committee in September but deferred for further consideration and for officers to negotiate with both applicants on matters including access, affordable housing provision and wider traffic implications.

After a debate lasting four hours, the committee agreed to support both applications subject to S106 agreements covering affordable housing, highways, access, provision of land for play, sports and allotments.

The developments at Staplegrove represent one of the three new garden communities being planned by the Borough Council under its garden Town status.

Taunton was named as the only new Garden Town in the South West by the Government at the start of this year.

The status recognises Taunton Deane Borough Council’s strategy to deliver major regeneration in the town centre, new sustainable communities, improved transport and supporting infrastructure, marrying development with access to green spaces.

Development centres on new garden communities identified in Monkton Heathfield, Comeytrowe/Trull and Staplegrove.

Construction is well under way in Monkton Heathfield while resolutions to grant planning consent have been agreed for Comeytrowe/Trull and now Staplegrove.

The Government has awarded the Borough Council a total of £725,000 to date to help the authority achieve its Garden Town ambitions.

Taunton Deane Borough Council recognises the importance of planning and delivering supporting infrastructure alongside growth and was one of the first authorities to implement Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

Future CIL and New Homes Bonus (NHB) funding will help to make sure the necessary infrastructure is delivered and provide match funding for key projects.

“We are investing £16.6m of NHB funding to ensure strategic projects happen,” said Leader of the council, Cllr John Williams. “We are aware of existing community concerns about transport links, facilities like schools and community facilities and our commitment is very much in line with the Government’s preference that NHB funding is used to ensure local communities benefit from growth-related income.

“This allocation of a six-figure sum to improve our capacity to deliver our Garden Town ambition is a real vote of confidence in Taunton as a strategic centre in the South West and a credit to our team.”

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