Council proposes to support YMCA project

19 April 2018

Taunton Deane Borough Council is poised to add its support to a scheme to transform an empty eyesore into a multi-purpose venue with a host of economic and social benefits.

Somerset Coast YMCA plans to turn the vacant Great Western Hotel at Taunton railway station into a buzzing boutique hotel, a base for new, start-up businesses, café/restaurant, conference and networking space – all linked to creating training and skills for young people.

The YMCA has a track record in social enterprises – The Beach Hotel in Minehead and Barley Wood House in Wrington, near Bristol – creating live training for people while delivering a financially sound business.

The Borough Council is planning to support the Great Western Hotel project by providing a £675,000 secured capital loan that will be repaid over 25 years.  Other funding towards the enterprise has been secured by the YMCA, including £500,000 from the Hinkley Point C Community Impact Mitigation (CIM) fund, £135,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £106,000 from the Rail Heritage Trust.

Key elements of the project include:

Councillor Mark Edwards, Deputy Leader of the council with responsibility for business development, said: “The Great Western Hotel is in a key position at the entrance to Taunton railway station – a real gateway into our county town.

“Once redeveloped, the new station entrance will open out opposite the building.  The Great Western Hotel will therefore be a highly visible presence for those coming to Taunton.  The redevelopment of this building is closely linked to our wider Taunton regeneration plans while providing hands-on training opportunities.

“It’s a brilliant way of providing a space where businesses can set up, collaborate and thrive.  That’s exactly what the business community has told us is needed in Taunton.

“I hope that we, as a council, will support the proposal for a commercially-based loan to help enable this exciting and innovative project become a reality.  Somerset Coast YMCA has worked immensely hard to secure a range of funding to breathe new life into this important site.”

The proposal for the loan will be considered by the council’s corporate scrutiny committee on 26 April 2018.  Members’ views will then be fed into the decision-making process.