Taunton - the Vision for Our Garden Town

We hope this Vision for Taunton sparks debate and interest in our Garden Town. The Vision has been expressed in words, maps and illustrations. It is important that we agree a shared Vision for the Garden Town that can guide the actions of many other stakeholders, not just the council, and that can be championed and owned by the whole town. This Vision framework will influence all plan-making and development management decisions.

So, have we got it right? Please complete the Our Vision for the Garden Town feedback form.

 

The story so far

Taunton was designated as a ‘Garden Town’ in early 2017 following a submission to Government - see Expression of Interest document for more information. This submission reflected the Council’s commitment to transformational housing growth centred around a number of new garden communities and a regenerated town centre supported by essential infrastructure and an enhanced network of green infrastructure. The town is undergoing significant change with key developments like Monkton Heathfield, Staplegrove new community, Comeytrowe/Trull/SW Taunton new community, Firepool and plans for the Nexus 25 strategic employment site, either underway or at various stages of the planning process. Since the designation, a number of important pieces of work have been completed including a Green Infrastructure Strategy and a Retail/Leisure and Employment Study which identifies new floorspace requirements for the town (and indeed for the wider area) while other studies and strategies are underway.

A successful bid was made to the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund securing approximately £7.2m of funding for a new link road as part of the Staplegrove planned new Garden Community. In addition, the Council has been working with Somerset County Council and Sedgemoor District Council on the preparation of a business case which, if successful, would unlock considerable further investment through the Government’s Forward Fund for infrastructure, in particular the delivery of schools. Innovative approaches to projects have been followed, including the preparation of a Local Development Order for the new Strategic Employment Site at Nexus. In Autumn 2018 the Council purchased land between the New Garden Communities of Monkton Heathfield and Nerrols Farm for the creation of a Green Country Park: a project which the Parish Councils of Cheddon Fitzpaine and West Monkton are working with the council to deliver.

Since the designation of the Garden Town there has been a product of considerable input and involvement from the community over the last 18 months:

As a Garden Town, we are committed to making Taunton more prosperous and sustainable with better transport links, better services and facilities, and conserving our valuable green space for future generations. Our aim is to ensure that our communities have the very best of both town and country.

What is a Garden Town in the twenty-first century?

There are no prescriptive guidelines set out by central Government and the response of each place is expected to be different. Each Garden Town is expected to determine what the new status might mean based on local circumstances and characteristics. The Vision begins to explore and answer the question “What types of physical change and improvements might we now look forward to?".

The Taunton Strategic Advisory Board has been exploring how to express a Vision for the Garden Town in words, and this is our starting point. The particular themes which extend from that Vision are key considerations in moving forwards – identifying tangible opportunities and challenges that need to be either grasped or overcome, respectively.

There will be some initiatives and policies associated with the Garden Town project that perhaps do not seem to have a direct physical or spatial impact – ideas for economic growth and governance, and the management of neighbourhood assets and spaces, for instance…but the physical environment is of course shaped and sustained by the activity and enterprise that happens within it and therefore everyone can have a part to play in supporting its creation and success. Already local special interest groups have begun to influence the thinking on particular topics and this Vision embraces those emerging ideas and attempts to present them spatially.

The enduring legacy of the Garden Town project surely will be in the types of environment, the patterns of lifestyle and the quality of life that it enables and facilitates within a framework for sustainable growth. Supporting a healthier, happier and lively set of neighbourhoods across the settlement for existing and future generations of Taunton residents to enjoy and prosper within. The goal is to achieve everyday social and cultural experiences which are richer and more rewarding for all residents whilst reducing our carbon footprint and making the town more resilient to climate change.

Taunton is a special place and occupies a strategic location within a wider landscape - it links powerfully with other successful towns and cities in the region as well as belonging to a set of diverse landscapes of immense beauty that are nearby, it is a Garden Town within a wider ‘garden’ – the bountiful county of Somerset.

Local connections between town and countryside can be reinvigorated and healed. The distinctive and productive landscape of Somerset can be reintroduced into the urban environment of the town. A sympathetic balance between ecological assets and human activity can be reconstituted around its edge. The centre of the county-town can reinforce its role as the cultural ‘heart’ and a stimulating place to be, and to be seen…

“On my walk to the shops, I heard a lovely bird singing in the new park that I now pass by…”
“On my bus journey to work we passed a new piece of street art which intrigued me and made me smile…”
“When I was cycling to work, I noticed that a community group had started an ‘incredible edible’ food-growing project on an unnoticed scrap of public land that was previously uncared for…”

Our Vision 

Taunton will be a flourishing, distinctive and healthy county town where we all enjoy an exceptional quality of life and are proud to live.

Our 5 Themes are the seeds for making this vision happen:

  1. Celebrate our roots - our special character 
    Our Quality of Life: our roots are what give Taunton its special character. We want our town to be widely recognised for its culture and arts, education, excellence in sports and high levels of well-being, drawing on our outstanding local natural environment and fabulous green spaces to make it a highly healthy and enjoyable place to live and work.
  2. Growing our town greener - transforming our open spaces and streets
    Quality of our Environment: give our town a ‘gurt’ green makeover, joining up our green spaces, waterways, parks and play spaces, planting more street trees and woodlands and managing our water more imaginatively with wetlands and rain gardens to improve it for recreation, tourism and wildlife.
  3. Branching out - moving cleaner, moving smarter
    Quality of our Movement: we will integrate our transport network so that it serves Taunton with much improved bus and appropriate vehicle links to our main destinations and make much better prioritised provision for walkers and cyclists, encouraging healthier and more sustainable journey choices as attractive alternatives to travelling by car.
  4. Growing quality green places to live - town centre, new and existing neighbourhoods
    Quality of our Places and Neighbourhoods: Taunton will deliver an outstanding built environment focused on places and spaces with high quality neighbourhoods, green streets and public spaces and with homes and buildings that are distinctly local in appearance. Our houses, offices, employment areas, public services and road infrastructure will embrace innovation, will be energy efficient and will exploit the latest sustainable technologies.
  5. New shoots - a dynamic, prosperous business community
    Taunton will become a melting pot of new ideas, emerging technologies and new knowledge workers in a digital world, drawing on its natural surroundings, naked ambition and passionate communities to own and shape the South West’s future in tomorrow’s creative, environmental, health and digital technology futures.

Next steps

This Vision is just the start of work on Taunton Garden Town. It will be supported by a Delivery Plan to be prepared over the coming months which will provide detail to the individual strategies, projects and activities which will deliver the Vision. Importantly, this Delivery Plan will not be a fixed document which will date but, over time, will develop into an online platform providing up-to-date information about strategies, projects and activities.

The Vision is also an important tool in informing some specific pieces of work for the Council. It will influence work on the emerging Local Plan as well as more detailed design guidance emerging through a new Urban Development Framework and Design Guide. This Vision framework will therefore influence all plan-making and development management decisions.

Supporting strategies and plans will be needed in some areas to bring to life some of the concepts and ideas. These will include the Taunton Waterways Strategy and Taunton Cultural Strategy.

Most importantly of all, the Council is committed to giving its communities and stakeholders an active role in realising the Vision from project identification through to delivery. Somerset West and Taunton will work to establish new governance arrangements for the Garden Town which will incorporate new and innovative ways to encourage community participation.

For more information, please see our document The Vision for Our Garden Town

We would welcome your feedback on the above document via the feedback form