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.”

High tech parking signs unveiled

THE first Variable Message Signing (VMS) boards are being unveiled in Taunton as work on changing the parking regime in key town centre car parks moves forward.

The signs are being unveiled by Taunton Deane Borough Council, working in partnership with Somerset County Council and contractors SWARCO and WSP.

The council is introducing pay on exit and VMS in seven central car parks as it invests £1.2m to make it easier for people to find vacant parking slots – and to make a payment when they leave, rather than when they arrive. VMS will also be linked to Taunton’s two park & ride sites.

Pay on exit will be introduced in the following car parks: Orchard, High Street, Tangier, Canon Street, Wood Street, Castle Street and Enfield. The changes, being introduced car park by car park to minimise disruption, are planned to be completed in August.

Cllr John Williams, Leader of the council, said: “We committed £1.2m to implementing this initiative to make life a little easier for the motorist and to underline our commitment to Taunton Deane’s economy.

“The new electronic signs will help people find where space is available in some of our busiest car parks while pay on exit means they pay for the time they have parked, rather than pay for time they think they might need.

“This has long been an aspiration for the council and I am delighted to see it come to fruition.”

Cllr Roger Habgood, Executive member for planning policy and transportation, added: “Taunton is growing and, as a Garden Town, we don’t want to see people having to drive around, wasting fuel, time and adding to pollution, in the search for a parking spot.”

Cllr Mark Edwards, Executive member for business, said: “Our traders have been supportive of this new system as it will make life easier for visitors, shoppers and those who do business in Taunton. This will remove the stress of having to return to the car in their allocated time, and allow shoppers to enjoy their experience in Taunton.

“I am grateful for the support we have received from our local businesses and from the partners we have worked with throughout.”

Cllr John Woodman, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “This project has been an excellent example of collaborative working between two authorities and I’m pleased to see it going live. VMS signs are a welcome addition to the town and should help prevent wasted journeys by directly guiding drivers to available parking spaces.”

The first sign was unveiled in Priorswood Road, Taunton, on the inbound approach, and is one of nine to be provided in key locations, signposting drivers to the seven pay-on-exit car parks and the two park and ride sites.

Coal Orchard application

TAUNTON Deane Borough Council has received a detailed planning application for development on land at Coal Orchard in Taunton.

The application is for a mix of uses including restaurants on the waterfront, retail units, gym, apartments all complemented by public space allowing access to the river.

The site already has outline consent so this application will complete the planning process providing more detail to the earlier, outline application. If granted this will allow works to get under way in early 2019.

This application forms the first phase in the development of the Coal Orchard site. This will be complemented by a refurbishment of the Brewhouse which together will create a new place on the river with culture at its heart.

The applicant is the council`s own business development team working in partnership with Mace. They have submitted a range of supporting documents.

The application – reference number 38/18/0185 – is available for inspection at Taunton Deane Borough Council’s offices in Belvedere Road, Taunton, and online at www.tauntondeane.gov.uk

The public has until Friday June 22 to comment on the application – this can be done by letter, by email or online at www.tauntondeane.gov.uk

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

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