21st October 2020

Consultation about to begin on final design proposals, in case Debenhams closes

Consultation on final design proposals will begin on Thursday 24 September, when the most recent work will be published on the consultation website for public feedback. In addition, there will be a webinar on Tuesday 29 September, 6pm to 7pm to give members of the public the opportunity to ask questions directly. The consultation website is at www.19to26NorthStreet.co.uk, and registration for the webinar is direct via bit.ly/19to26NorthStreetWebinar or via the consultation website.

Although the design and consultation process is now moving into its final phase, there is still no knowledge of Debenhams future plans for the store and hope remains that Debenhams will survive current difficulties. The best case for everyone is for Debenhams to continue trading in Taunton on an economically viable basis for both Debenhams and the current owners. However, the need for a contingency plan remains, to limit the damage in case this is not possible.

Over the last year the Crossmark Team have been working on such a plan, and the first stage of public consultation began in May. 

Mark Lewis, Crossmark, said, ‘It was evident early on that there was little demand for retail premises of any size nationally and effectively no demand at all for stores of this size. Unfortunately, since we began the process, the difficulties already facing town centres across the country have been made even worse by the pandemic, making recovery planning even more urgent. From the outset, we also recognised the need for a contingency plan that is right for Taunton; one that is resilient in the face of the many changes we’re all facing; one that contributes to the economic health of North Street; and one that is well designed and contributes to the streetscape. This is why we started consultation early and adopted a staged approach. We really appreciate all the feedback we have received to date and we’re look forward to presenting our final design proposals.’

One change that has been made in response to the consultation is that the application will now be for unrestricted use apartments rather than age restricted.

The final consultation will focus on the design of the building and the reasons for the design decisions taken. In addition to public feedback, designs have been shaped by emerging local policy (including the Taunton Garden Town Vision and the Draft Design Guide), peer and formal design reviews, feedback from Statutory Consultees (including Highways, English Heritage, and the Environment Agency) and discussions with the Local Planning Authority.

Mark AlkerStone from AWW Architects commented, ‘We’re delighted to be able to present our proposed designs for public feedback. The site is technically challenging, and it’s been a lengthy process, but we wanted to ensure that we found a design solution that made a real contribution to the town centre. Working with feedback from a range of consultees has been very helpful and we’re looking forward to hearing what people think’.

Further information about the design process to date, including site analyses, design evolution and approach to materials remains available on the consultation website at www.19to26northstreet.co.uk.