TAUNTON is heralding 2017 as the start of a new era after being named as one of a new wave of Garden Towns by the Government – firmly rooting the county town’s position as a key centre in the South West.
The success of Taunton’s bid was unveiled today and recognises Taunton Deane Borough Council’s strategy to deliver major regeneration in the town centre, new sustainable communities, improved transport and supporting infrastructure, marrying development with access to green spaces.
Taunton Deane has been awarded the substantial sum of £350K to cover the master planning costs and identify the important infrastructure requirements. This will be a major benefit in seeking capital funding from the £2.3 billion announced by the Government to support the creation of Garden Towns and Villages.
Development will centre on urban extensions already identified – Monkton Heathfield, Comeytrowe/Trull and Staplegrove.
Planning for the new communities has identified opportunities to improve access to the surrounding countryside and link green space to housing/employment sites through country parks, community woodland and recreation areas.
The Council has been working closely with partners, including Somerset County Council, on the bid and news of its success has been widely welcomed.
“Taunton already benefits from many of the characteristics of a Garden Town – we want to strike that balance between retaining our character and wonderful environment to our growth aspirations that will make our county town more prosperous in future,” said Cllr Roger Habgood, Executive member for planning and transport.
“The concepts of a garden town, which combines the best of town and country living, have been successfully demonstrated by places such as Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City. Garden towns are even more relevant today than when they were first introduced more than 100 years ago, precisely because of their contribution to the environment combined with sustainable growth.
“Garden Town status will contribute to the support we need to deliver the vision and supporting infrastructure. This is a huge recognition of Taunton, its aims and its place as a key player in the South West.”
Taunton MP Rebecca Pow said: “I’m delighted that the county town of Somerset has been selected as one of very few areas nationally to be awarded Garden Town Status.
“Taunton has an ambitious plan to deliver the homes that are needed and the funding unlocked should enable this to be done in a sustainable way with the correct infrastructure, green spaces, appropriate design, sports facilities and sustainable drainage so that we create places people really want to live in.”
The largest new garden community is Monkton Heathfield where approximately 4,500 new homes are planned together with employment sites, a new excellent school already provided, a district centre, a country park and woodland in the green wedge between Monkton Heathfield and Priorswood.
There are plans for a multi-purpose “green necklace” around the development with allotments, recreation areas and wildlife habitat. The Bridgwater and Taunton canal provides an off road footpath and cycleway into Taunton.
Approximately 1500 new homes are envisaged at Staplegrove with plans to improve links into the surrounding countryside. A new primary school and local centre with open space and recreational opportunities and improved cycle and pedestrian links will provide a sustainable neighbourhood.
The new community at Comeytrowe/Trull will provide approximately 2,000 homes, a primary school, a new green wedge along the Galmington Stream with open space and social and community facilities. Public transport improvements are planned with a park and bus site, linking to a proposed rapid bus corridor into Taunton.
“This is a tremendous opportunity, not just for Taunton but for the wider South West,” said Cllr John Williams, Leader of the Borough Council.
“Taunton is surrounded by beautiful countryside which, with its location and excellent road, rail and air links, is part of what makes the town such an attractive place to invest. Garden Town status will emphasise the importance of development maximising the potential of the area’s green spaces and Taunton’s easy access to the countryside.
“It will also help to stimulate improvement and growth of the town centre and help us to deliver the essential infrastructure that we all know is necessary to support our ambitious plans.”
Councillor John Osman, Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “We need new homes and jobs for the long-term prosperity of the county and a new garden town is part of our vision. The announcement today is great news and we will be working closely with district colleagues to take the next steps.”