Taunton Deane Borough Council is working with public and private sector partners to deliver the strategic employment site – Nexus 25 – at J25 of the M5 motorway.
The development is being created as a ‘green campus.’ Space for a variety of uses such as research and development and high quality offices, alongside light industrial units and warehouses will provide a range of flexible premises suitable for many types of business. More than 3,000 jobs could be created at the site, boosting Taunton’s role as a major growth centre in the South West.
Walkways and landscaping including tree planting will create an environment in line with Taunton’s new Garden Town status.
The Borough Council is using a Government planning mechanism to fast-track the process – a Local Development Order (LDO). LDOs were introduced by the Government to enable local authorities to speed up the planning process, while ensuring that the usual environmental safeguards are properly applied.
It also allows the Council to have greater control and give greater guidance on what is being sought from a development rather than just waiting for what might be submitted to the Council as a planning application.
Ultimately it will help increase the likelihood of development being achieved; it could make it happen more quickly; and will allow the Council to give better guidance on the types of development that would be acceptable.
The council held two consultations on the LDO: informally in March 2017 when the nature of the proposals were set out and representations invited on a number of questions about the proposals; the second, statutory consultation took place over six weeks, rather than the prescribed four, ending on 31 August 2017.
All responses to the consultation will now be considered by the Council’s Community Scrutiny Committee on 14 November. The Committee will make recommendations to be considered by Full Council in December when members will decide whether to adopt the LDO and agree to officers’ recommendations of approval.
If adopted, the LDO could not be implemented until improvements at J25 are confirmed. Money has been provided for this work and the scheme is currently awaiting planning approval from Somerset County Council.
Councillor Roger Habgood, Executive member for planning policy, said using a Local Development Order was the right choice for the site.
“LDOs were introduced by the Government to enable local planning authorities such as Taunton Deane to speed up the implementation of planned development, while ensuring that all the usual safeguards are applied.
“Once approved by the Council, the LDO will set out the extent and nature of the proposed development together with all the criteria and requirements that proposals must meet to satisfy the terms of the Order. Developers must demonstrate to the Council that their proposals satisfy the requirements of the LDO before they can proceed. In essence, it gives us far greater control at an earlier stage.”
“The fact that the Local Economic Partnership (LEP) has allocated significant funding for the road improvements demonstrates the importance of this site to the local and regional economy,” said Councillor Mark Edwards, Deputy Leader and Executive member for business development.
Leader of the Council, John Williams, added: “We, are committed to provide the high quality, long-term jobs that our economy needs. Taunton is growing and it is essential we deliver a balanced economy of housing, jobs and leisure tog with improved infrastructure to match.”
There has been extensive preparatory work on floodplain modelling work, transport issues and a full environmental statement. The effect of carrying out this work is to take control of the process, enhancing the attractiveness of the development to those looking to develop new employment sites, in a competitive market, and also to shorten the likely timescale before new jobs come to fruition.