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.

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

Council proposes to support YMCA project

Taunton Deane Borough Council is poised to add its support to a scheme to transform an empty eyesore into a multi-purpose venue with a host of economic and social benefits.

Somerset Coast YMCA plans to turn the vacant Great Western Hotel at Taunton railway station into a buzzing boutique hotel, a base for new, start-up businesses, café/restaurant, conference and networking space – all linked to creating training and skills for young people.

The YMCA has a track record in social enterprises – The Beach Hotel in Minehead and Barley Wood House in Wrington, near Bristol – creating live training for people while delivering a financially sound business.

The Borough Council is planning to support the Great Western Hotel project by providing a £675,000 secured capital loan that will be repaid over 25 years. Other funding towards the enterprise has been secured by the YMCA, including £500,000 from the Hinkley Point C Community Impact Mitigation (CIM) fund, £135,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £106,000 from the Rail Heritage Trust.

Key elements of the project include:

Creation of a premises hosting a training and skills partnership delivering 10 new jobs, 12 apprenticeships, 10 traineeships and many volunteering opportunities
The hotel will be transformed from a currently vacant office space to a modern hotel attracting new customers to Taunton and its surrounds, and specifically supporting the business community
Creation of 15 boutique hotel rooms
Café/restaurant, conference space which can accommodate 125 and broader meeting and collaboration space. This element will be based in the ground floor being branded as “The Exchange”
Business hub, co-working spaces and Incubator units situated in the basement and ground floor areas. These spaces will be let flexibly and allow for short term and long term arrangements. The space will offer superfast broadband, a hosted reception and a series of weekly events for those using the spaces and be branded as “the Platform”
Councillor Mark Edwards, Deputy Leader of the council with responsibility for business development, said: “The Great Western Hotel is in a key position at the entrance to Taunton railway station – a real gateway into our county town.

“Once redeveloped, the new station entrance will open out opposite the building. The Great Western Hotel will therefore be a highly visible presence for those coming to Taunton. The redevelopment of this building is closely linked to our wider Taunton regeneration plans while providing hands-on training opportunities.

“It’s a brilliant way of providing a space where businesses can set up, collaborate and thrive. That’s exactly what the business community has told us is needed in Taunton.

“I hope that we, as a council, will support the proposal for a commercially-based loan to help enable this exciting and innovative project become a reality. Somerset Coast YMCA has worked immensely hard to secure a range of funding to breathe new life into this important site.”

The proposal for the loan will be considered by the council’s corporate scrutiny committee on 26 April 2018. Members’ views will then be fed into the decision-making process.

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