This page summarises the key points about the Masterplan in one place. It should take you 5-10 minutes to read and answer up to six survey questions.
Firepool is a major regeneration area within Taunton town centre, for which there have been development aspirations for many years.
The site presents a unique opportunity close to the train station, key services and facilities, and fronting the River Tone. High quality development needs to respond to its context and the range of opportunities and constraints present. This Draft Masterplan looks to respond accordingly and take account of important changes in policy and context including the Council’s Garden Town Vision and declaration of a Climate Emergency.
Somerset West and Taunton Council is both landowner / developer as well as Local Planning Authority in relation to the site. These roles are distinct and independent, however, the delivery of sustainable development on this key town centre site is of great importance in both roles.
The Draft Masterplan has been produced by the developer team and agreed for consultation purposes by the Local Planning Authority. Whilst significant progress has been made, additional work is still required before the final version can be approved including ensuring it is informed by responses to public consultation.
The Draft Masterplan proposes an ambitious mixed-use scheme designed to support revitalisation and regeneration of the town centre, informed by engagement with key stakeholders, evidenced studies and consideration by the Council’s Quality Review Panel.
The Draft Masterplan proposes a mixed-use residential-led development comprising of:
Approximately 430 dwellings with a mix of apartments, town houses and student flats.
An ambitious commercial / leisure quarter potentially capable of accommodating multi-purpose venue, hotel, cinema, bowling alley, limited commercial/ retail floorspace, health hub and nursery.
Accommodation and integration of the already consented Innovation Centre and “Block 3” office and restaurant proposals.
A central boulevard linking from the station to the river with onward connections to the town centre incorporating sustainable urban drainage, tree planting and high quality public realm including an amphitheatre fronting the River Tone.
An improved and futureproofed walking and cycling connection along National Cycle Network route 3 on the north bank of the River Tone as well as other connections internal to the site.
Sustainability features including centralised cycle hub containing secure cycle storage, low traffic neighbourhood design and energy centre for potential heat network delivery.
Re-provision of the existing boat club.
Open space and play areas integrated into wider public realm and green infrastructure.
A series of draft key design principles and draft parameter plans, informed by consideration of up to date context and circumstances, engagement with key stakeholders, and specific evidence studies, are identified. These will be fundamental aspects of the final Masterplan for future development proposals to consider and respond to.
The Masterplan includes some more detailed design aspects intended to demonstrate how the key design principles and parameter plans could be implemented. However, these more detailed elements are indicative only.
A virtual tour of the site has been produced and can be viewed by clicking on the video below:
The Firepool site is allocated for a mixed-use, office-led development by the Taunton Town Centre Area Action Plan (2008). A retail-led mixed-use scheme was granted planning permission in 2019. However, circumstances have changed significantly since both the original development plan policies were written and since the retail permission was granted.
The Council as Local Planning Authority must determine planning applications in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. A new Masterplan is needed to provide an up to date and justified policy context. The final version of the Masterplan is intended to be adopted by the Local Planning Authority as a ‘material consideration’.
The Masterplan needs to avoid being overly prescriptive so it can be reasonably flexible to further changing circumstances. As such it is the final key design principles and parameter plans, together with the justifications provided within the final Masterplan document which are explicitly likely to be adopted as material considerations.
High level independent viability assessment shows that commercially viable development on Firepool is a significant challenge. This is why the Council is taking a proactive role in bringing the site forward itself. The Council can approach things differently to a commercial developer, and has wider interests in seeing the economic, social and environmental benefits to the town centre. High quality design and public realm, and coordinated delivery will be key to a successful scheme.
However, it does mean that the scheme scheme is unlikely to deliver policy compliant levels of affordable housing or other policy contributions. Delivery of the Multi-Purpose Venue is likely to be reliant on securing significant additional public subsidy from elsewhere.
SWT has sought to maximise funding opportunities that will help deliver the key infrastructure works that facilitate the development of the rest of the site. enable the rest of the site to come forward. The drainage and levels works will be completed first, providing the basis for the subsequent public realm works that will see the “boulevard” link from the station to the river completed, including the Amphitheatre.
These works will start in 2022 and run through 2023. These works will complete the raising of the levels and provide the Boulevard elements of the Public Realm which is being fully funded by grant funding and not Council borrowing. This will also upgrade utilities to remove the key barriers to further regeneration. It is expected the leisure elements such as the Cinema and Hotel will come forward as early phases with the possibility of being closely followed by residential uses, subject to phosphates solutions.
The Multi Performance Venue will be dependent on receipts from Firepool from commercial development and grant funding. Some flexibility around the venue may be required but the intention this adds to the leisure offer for the Town, subject to a viable business case. Leisure uses are intended to help fuse the retail and leisure experience in the Town Centre bringing new visitors into Taunton and encouraging those that already shop here to stay longer and enjoy a regenerated leisure led waterfront offer unique to Somerset.
We want to hear your thoughts!
We are seeking the views of the public, local communities, technical stakeholders and the development industry on this draft Masterplan until Monday 2nd January 2023.
To respond to the consultation, we encourage you to either complete the quick survey below or respond to the more detailed topic level surveys elsewhere within this consultation portal.