Plans to regenerate one of Taunton’s prime riverside quarters are taking shape and the public are being given to chance to help by sharing their thoughts via a public consultation next month.
The Coal Orchard is a key part of the county town’s regeneration jigsaw and is set to put the River Tone at the heart of Taunton.
The area’s special character with a wealth of niche, independent shops and a Bohemian feel is said to be vital to the regeneration plans.
An Open Day is being held on Thursday 5 May at St James’s Church to give people the chance to see how Coal Orchard’s development could bring new vitality to the area and how it links with other regeneration sites at Firepool and in the historic heart of Taunton.
The Council’s consultation partner, the Mace Group, will be on hand to explain the proposals along with the Council team heading the project.
The consultation is being held before outline plans are submitted for consideration and the public are being urged to take the chance to give their views at this early stage.
Businesses in the immediate area will also be consulted on a one-to-one basis.
Once outline plans are submitted the public will still have the chance to comment through the planning process and an application could be submitted later this year if all goes well.
Cllr Mark Edwards, Executive Councillor for Business Development, said:
“Coal Orchard is key element of the Taunton Town Centre Rethink document which has had considerable public airing and support.
It is a vital element of the whole regeneration proposals for the Firepool area and railway station enabling people to walk through an attractive environment linking the existing town centre and Firepool.
We are also protecting the space around the Brewhouse Theatre and down to the river to accommodate growth in size and facilities if that were to be the conclusion of any future report.
I must stress that these are only proposals, all will be subject to full public consultation and planning to enable people to get involved and have their say in shaping the future of our county town centre.
I hope people will take the time to understand what is proposed and have an open mind.”
Proposals currently include a mixed development of housing, workspace, restaurants and retail.
The Brewhouse will feature as an important arts and cultural venue with the area around the theatre protected for potential expansion.
Better access to the river is also planned along with careful consideration of flood defences.
There would also be a reduction in parking spaces with alternatives within easy walking distance, Canon Street and Wood Street, while the Firepool development could provide some 450 spaces.
The new swimming pool and spa at Blackbrook is due to open in the summer which will essentially replace the ageing and expensive to maintain St James Street Pool.
The building, once redundant, will be demolished but key features will be retained in the development, such as the historic foundation stone.
The Council is keen to tap into as much opinion and advice as possible, the proposals will go to the Design and Review Panel, Taunton Economic Advisory Board and to elected members via scrutiny and Executive before any application is formally made.
The proposals for Coal Orchard are a vital link in the chain of a wider ‘Rethink’ of Taunton Town Centre.