The engagement of this project has ended
11 months ago
Overall, how do you feel about the draft proposals for development at Firepool
Are the proposals a good use of this key town centre site?
Do you believe the mix of uses proposed would improve and futureproof Taunton town centre for years to come?
Do the Masterplan proposals effectively respond to the Key Design Principles identified?
Do you have any further comments about the draft developed masterplan or parameter plans?
This plan appears to be almost completely geared towards housing and entertainment with minimal importance given to business and employment. Unfortunately, given the site's proximity to the railway station, given the emphasis placed in the plan on ease of access and links to the station, one can easily surmise this will be a 'bedroom community' with the inhabitants of the site likely to be commuters travelling out of Taunton to other towns and cities for their employment.
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Overall, the proposals seem considerably better than what, in effect, was a kind of retail park proposed by the former Taunton Deane Borough Council. Certainly, I welcome the emerging digital innovation centre - the TDBC proposals would have presented visitors leaving the station with a supermarket service yard.
I am relieved that a street connection to Priory Bridge Road is being shown, so that in future, a double-fronted route can be created to link Firepool with the retail core across the Morrisons site. Reliance on the riverside path as the sole connection between Firepool and the established town centre would not seem to be sufficient, it being very likely to lack active frontages and (from experience elsewhere) probably not being capable of supporting viable ground level commercial use.
Similarly, I am glad to see that the potential for a bus route between the station and the retail core, avoiding the congestion and multiple traffic signals of the current route via the south station approach and Station Road, has been recognised. It's rather indirect, but better than nothing at all.
I am rather concerned that the illustrations show buildings orientated at 90 degrees to the riverbank, instead of being aligned parallel to it. A look at the Churchill Homes development opposite Goodland Gardens suggests that this will not appear satisfactory. There are already several key developments along the riverside in Taunton that relate poorly to it, and give the impression of turning away from or ignoring the river. Plus, on the opposite side of the river at this point, the development in Youngman Place had to be set back a long way to avoid underground services, which was not the original intention. So the development really does need to create a strong built frontage to the river to offset some of the existing negatives.
I feel that, on what is a site with unique strategic qualities, especially its proximity to the railway station, there is too rather much housing being proposed. There should be a greater use of the site for 'trip end' uses, particularly office-type employment.
Certainly, housing should form part of the mix, but more generally, it is a use that can take place almost anywhere within the town centre. For example, the Council should first be progressing residential development of the sites in Tangier, such as St Johns Road, which have been allocated for housing since 2008.
I am not convinced that this is an appropriate site to propose housing with gardens, rather than apartments. Aside from the rather low density that will result, the effect may well be to suburbanise what is an inner urban site. Wherever possible, one would wish to see housing provided with commercial uses at street level.
I strongly support the proposal for a hotel. At the moment, people wishing to visit Taunton without travelling by car have few options when it comes to places to stay. As a comparison, in Shrewsbury (population 70,000) there is a 100-bed Premier Inn within walking distance of the station, which I have used several times. I feel that accommodation in the same sector of the market is needed in Taunton. Might there be scope to do a land swap with the Obridge Premier Inn and redevelop that site for some of the housing you are talking about here?
I also feel that Taunton badly needs a cinema in its town centre - it was a great mistake to allow one to be built at Hankridge. In fact, I have never been to the cinema in Taunton since the traditional venues in the town centre were closed: a car trip to Hankridge is not to me an inviting way to have an evening out.
I also think there is a more general issue as to how Taunton can put right the planning mistakes that, from the 1970s onwards, that saw many key uses, such as the cinema, office employment, leisure, the YMCA, move out of the town centre to Blackbrook and Hankridge. Eventually the buildings near the M5 will reach the end of their lives, or the users will wish to relocate, and there needs to be a range of sites available within the centre of the town for them to return to. For example, the YMCA in Leicester is near the station and provides a good venue for meetings. In Gloucester, the main leisure centre, 'GL1' as it used to be, is on a brownfield site near the station and not out by the motorway.
Some of these uses would require sites capable of accommodating larger floorplates, and such sites must not be squandered by using them, say, for housing. The Deane House site is one that comes to mind and in fact, the Inspector asked about the future of this at the Examination into the TCAAP in 2008, and why the site was not included in the TCAAP. With so much open parking and other unused land around it, It is currently a waste of a town centre site.
One restaurant??? Where’s the cafes?? Where’s the places for people to meet and eat along the river??
Looking at the detail, the land could be used far better than offices, conference centre and one restaurant
They do not include detail on re location of the existing 'Boat House'. So there fore we consider the plan incomplete. The grand linkage claims to path and cycling improvements do not add any real value as the routes are already established. Adding additional lighting and surfacing outside the development curtilage to the other towns business areas would be a benefit, but this is a council responsibility and outside this development scope. The lack of parking facilities for the general public access, or clarity on public transport routes (outside those provided for Block 3) will only add more loading to Morrisons, which they are clearly unhappy with.
You current plans do not support your claims for community, business continuity, transportation access and existing recreational users.
12 months ago
I fear that a top-shelf site within our town is going to be over-designed and filled with sterile, generic-looking buildings which could represent any other boringly-designed 'modern' town on earth.