The Firepool site is of key Council and community importance within Taunton. It is the largest brownfield site in the town and has potential to impact a wide range of issues and influence the visual appearance, reputation and appeal of the town to a high degree. The site has lay derelict for a long time and been proposed for redevelopment for longer still, with various proposals falling by the wayside. It remains an important site in the Somerset West and Taunton’s regeneration plans and the Council are making it a priority in line with corporate strategy objectives to facilitate development and boost the economy.
Much like the rest of the UK, Taunton Town Centre is being deeply impacted by online retailing, which the global pandemic has further acted as a catalyst for.
Through this public consultation event, we are seeking your views on the initial phases of the Firepool Development, as detailed in the exhibition material. The Council is also currently preparing a new Masterplan to support the overall Firepool Site; further consultation on this will be carried out next year.
The Consultation Proposals
The four proposed applications we are currently consulting on represent an exciting opportunity to deliver the first phases of Firepool’s redevelopment and pave the way for its wider regeneration. The applications can be summarised as follows:
We recognise that the site is surrounded by residential and commercial neighbours, has a close relationship with the railway, is of vital importance to improving foot and cycle accessibility to the station and town centre, is heavily influenced by the River Tone and Canal and has an important relationship with key heritage and cultural assets in the town. For these reasons and more, we are seeking your views on the draft proposals to inform the forthcoming planning applications.
- Block 3 – Located to the north of the Firepool site, these proposals include a new Office Building with small scale cafe at Ground floor Level, the Renovation and extension of the former GWR building to provide a statement restaurant / bar, a new road connection from Canal road to the south; and the ‘upper boulevard’;
- Boulevard – Running through the centre of the Firepool site, the Boulevard will provide a high-quality, diverse and exciting link through the wider site, including significant landscaping, a ‘rainwater garden’, amphitheatre and market square;
- Infrastructure – this application seeks to deliver the necessary enabling works to allow the wider site to come forward in the near future, including earthworks to raise site levels for flood protection and the provision of drainage infrastructure.
- Trenchard Way Access – sitting adjacent to the Block 3 portion of the site, the proposals include the rearrangement of the previously consented Firepool access junction with amended refuge and signals configurations, to allow for the implementation of a standalone cycle crossing, alongside a staggered puffin crossing, as well as the provision of a dedicated cycle lane off Trenchard Way.
Programme and Current Activity
Firepool is about to become a busy hub of activity as the Council’s regeneration plans start to come to fruition.
The first of the development blocks is ‘Block 6’, which will be on site in October in the form of the Digital Innovation Centre, being delivered in partnership with Somerset County Council. This will deliver a digital-led business offer and be unlike anything else in the area to help this sector to boost the local economy. The new station and car park sit at the top of the Firepool site and are a significant Firepool focus for rail passengers. The main part of the site is about to have a series of planning applications as we start to deliver the wider vision for Firepool and start the connection from Station to river and then to the almost regenerated Coal Orchard and onto the Town Centre. All of this is part of the Council’s wider regeneration vision for the 2040 Garden Town Vision.
Please see more on this by visiting Taunton Garden Town 2040 (somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk).
The new NHS vaccination centre is also about to open and all this builds on the work that the Council has already completed with the landscaping and temporary boulevard together with the refurbishment of the old GWR Goods office.
We strongly believe these early projects set the steppingstones for a regenerated Taunton Town Centre that delivers our vision and objectives. We hope that you can support these proposals that already reflect your feedback from previous consultations and with your help this Council can deliver on this vision now.