7th July 2020

Outline plans for Coal Orchard redevelopment recommended for approval

An outline planning application for a mixed development of shops, homes, work space and eating places and for the demolition of St James Street swimming pool at Coal Orchard in Taunton is recommended for approval by Taunton Deane Borough Council.

The two and three storey buildings in five blocks would include 740 square metres of retail/office space in 13 units, 800 square metres of office/workspace, 555 square metres of restaurant/cafe space in 4 units and 36 residential units.

90 objections have been received including of loss of parking capacity, creating more traffic, blocking views of the river, impact on the Brewhouse and affecting access to shops, cafes, cricket ground, theatre, medical centre and church.

Arts Taunton has objected to the planning application saying the proposals “offer a piecemeal redevelopment putting ‘the cart before the horse'”.

“The redevelopment must be coherent and proclaim Taunton’s vision of establishing a cultural quarter, itself a major driving force in the town’s economic and social regeneration. The design of Coal Orchard should be governed by the imprint and design of the new arts centre. These must be established before anything else. The Brewhouse and River Tone’s waterfront are the landmarks that will attract people to Coal Orchard and the design must serve them.”

£20 million plans to expand and revitalise Taunton’s Brewhouse Theatre were announced this week.

Taunton Theatre Association have said they are ‘very supportive’ of Taunton Deane Borough Council’s aspirations to regenerate and develop Taunton town centre however they have objected to the current detailed plans for the Coal Orchard site.

“We believe the initial vision for the Coal Orchard site (of which we were supportive) has been lost in the planning process and we would value the opportunity to revisit the original ideas for the area.”

Taunton Theatre Association added:

“Taunton Theatre Association believe the redevelopment of the theatre is of prime importance in the cultural quarter and any development of the Coal Orchard site development should be carried out in conjunction with, and at the same time as,any modifications to the theatre.

This way will lead to a holistic not piecemeal vision for this area.

Furthermore,this development needs to complement not mirror other developments in the town. It should be thought of as part of a whole and not individually.

TTA believe enhancement of this area is important to Taunton as a whole. A redevelopment along the lines outlined in the paragraph above will have a positive impact on the town which the plans as currently drawn will deny.

This is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to create something unique, beautiful and fit for purpose in the centre of Taunton. As such,it must add to the attractiveness of the town bringing more people to visit, enjoy themselves and spend with us. It is not an opportunity the town can afford to lose.”

St James Church has objected on the basis of the loss of car parking.

The application has been recommended for conditional approval and a officer report states:

“The scheme is considered to safeguard the character and appearance of the conservation area and while it will impact on the setting of the Old Brewery house this impact is not considered substantial and the benefits of the redevelopment of the area in terms of townscape and employment is considered to outweigh the limited harm.

The parking provision retained on the site is considered suitable to serve the development and adjacent uses subject to suitable management of the car park. There are no objections from the main statutory consultees and the development is considered is considered in line with the core planning principles set out in paragraph 17 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

As such the scheme is considered an acceptable redevelopment of the site and is recommended for approval.”