Meeting documents

TDBC Full Council
Tuesday, 11th December, 2018 6.30 pm

If there are no documents available for this meeting, please click on Attendance details, as the meeting may have been cancelled.


a)    Henry Haslam of Taunton Transition Town addressed the Council on behalf of his colleague David Blake who had run the Taunton Half Marathon several times and more recently the Deane DLO 10K race in late September.  He had always been disturbed by the amount of plastic waste that these events generated, especially in the form of single-use plastic bottles, often handed out to runners who take a few swigs of water and then discard the bottle on the course.


Although the bottles were collected and disposed of, it seemed an unnecessary amount of waste and something that could easily be avoided.  Following very extensive media coverage, there were very few people who were unaware that a serious crisis of plastic pollution was unfolding, both in the oceans and across the ecosphere.


With the backing of Taunton Transition Town, a petition was started on 38 Degrees on 26 October 2018 under the heading "Support Taunton runners who say no! to plastic bottles".  Within a few weeks, it had attracted 976 signatures.


Although the races referred to above were organised by the Taunton and District Carnival Committee, they were Taunton events and it was within its powers for the Council to ask the Committee to consider supporting Taunton Deane’s desire to become a "single-use plastic free Council".


Taunton Transition Town therefore asked the Council to take note of the petition and take practical steps where possible to work with the Carnival Committee and the organisers of races to halt the distribution of single-use plastic drinks bottles at future road races, making use of more environment-friendly alternatives.


In response, Councillor Patrick Berry stated that this was a good point that would be taken up with the organisers of the Marathon and the 10K Run.  The Mayor added that she had attended recent meetings of the Committee and it was taking the matter very seriously and were already looking at ways of providing alternatives to plastic bottles of water.


b)    Liz Goldsworthy asked what the outcome was following the discussion at the last Council meeting concerning the prevention of Kingston Stream Open Space being used by travellers.


There was a need to set a way forward to address this problem, not having the matter ‘hijacked’ to enable the provision of static sites to be discussed.


She also asked whether any progress had been made by the Legal Department regarding the enforcement of the injunction to prevent further illegal encampments.


In reply, Councillor John Williams regretted the lack of tangible progress but the Council was studying the alternatives available such as progressing the transit site on the Blackdown Hills where unauthorised travellers could be moved to relatively quickly.


He added that Taunton had a huge problem with the number of green spaces which meant the Council needed to look at the whole issue.  It was likely that if the Council sought to address the problem of illegal occupations at Kingston Stream, the travellers would simply find another vulnerable green space.


c)    Martin Pakes made reference to the proposed re-development of Coal Orchard area of Taunton which was featured in the Councillor Edwards’s report.  He asked:-


When would the construction of the replacement building for the former Swimming Baths site be started and completed?

How long would there only be 25 car parking spaces and where would they be sited.  Where and how many spaces would be provided "nearby"?

Would it not be better to delay the proposed closure of St James Street until after the Coal Orchard development had been completed to allow construction traffic to use this route?


In reply, Councillor Mark Edwards stated that:-


The tender exercise was currently underway.  Tenders were due to be received during January 2019 and, subject to the responses received, it was hoped that a contract would be awarded at an early date.


The Council would be looking to maintain as many spaces as possible in the Coal Orchard Car Park in conjunction with the contractor appointed.  However, the number of spaces was likely to vary as the re-development moved forward.  Councillor Edwards added that other opportunities for parking were also being investigated.


The proposed permanent closure of St James Street was still the subject of public consultation which would close on 31 December 2018.  There was therefore still time to submit representations.  He was not convinced that construction traffic should access the site via St James Street but this would be discussed with the successful contractor.


The Mayor stated that she would call the next three questioners as they wished to raise matters on the same issue and would then ask Councillor Richard Parrish to respond.


d)    On behalf of the Residents of Staplegrove Action Group (RoSAG), Jackie Calcroft reported that Staplegrove residents were very aggrieved that this Council was going back on its word.


Councillors too who sat on the Staplegrove Planning Committee in October 2017 must also feel let down as the advice given to them unambiguously stated that if the Council was successful in its bid for £7,200,000 of Government Housing Infrastructure Funding (HIF) to build the Staplegrove Spine Road then there would be no need for a drop down road onto the rural Corkscrew Lane.


In a recent letter from land promoters, Ptarmigan, RoSAG had been informed that "We have always been consistent with our position that the District Distributor Road will be required whether the HIF money was secured or not……we have been in discussion with Redrow who are looking to purchase the whole site. They have not discussed with us the logistics of how the site would be physically built out."  This was followed a few days later by a further letter which stated that "I do know they [Redrow] have had a number of meetings with the Council regarding Reserved Matters for the site…..."


The Chairman of Staplegrove Parish Council and RoSAG had recently put forward a workable solution to Taunton Deane and Somerset County  Highways which conformed with Policy TAU2 to build the spine road from the west and negated access at Corkscrew Lane.


Why did RoSAG say that the Spine Road must be delivered up front and in its entirety?  It was to avoid a possible scenario of only a limited number of houses 499 out of the total 713 being constructed in the west, the developer then leaving the site due to choice or market forces thus creating a cul-de-sac without proper, suitable access and an already over capacity Corkscrew Lane becoming even more congested!


Given the u-tums relating to outline approval you must surely appreciate why residents have lost confidence in the Council and its Planning Department and our concerns over the detailed application.


My questions therefore were:-


Given that the HIF bid was submitted on the basis of up front delivery

of the Spine Road and the deletion of any need for the drop down road, were there any legal agreements to ensure that all developers of any part of the west site could not use any part of Corkscrew Lane as access to, or egress from, the site for any purpose assuming HIF money was forthcoming?


Why did the Council not robustly adhere to its pledge that the drop down road would not be required in the event of the HIF bid being successful? and


Would the Council ensure that a condition was imposed on Redrow or a.n.other that the Spine Road must be completed in its entirety before any houses were built?


e)    David Lausen stated that there were rumours that Taunton Deane and Somerset County Council were now in discussions with Redrow about a "Drop Down Road" as "temporary" access off Corkscrew Lane despite Taunton Deane securing £7,200,000 HIF for a Spine Road.  If these rumours were correct:–


Was Council Leader, Councillor Williams misled when he was interviewed with me on Radio Somerset in February 2018, when he assured everyone that the drop down road would now no longer be required?


Were our Member of Parliament, Rebecca Pow and then Minister for Housing and Planning, Alok Sharma misled when they visited Corkscrew Lane in November 2017 to see – and confirm – how unsuitable and dangerous Corkscrew Lane was?


Was Mr Tim Burton misled – or may be misleading – when he assured Councillors on the Planning Committee in October 2017 that approving Outline Planning and securing Spine Road funding would result in no drop down road?


f)     Simon Briggs also made reference to the HIF money for the Spine Road. As there was a lot of concern about the need for temporary access to Corkscrew Lane it was understood that this money would remove the need for that access.  Bearing in mind that this allocation was agreed at the beginning of the year, when was it likely to be received, why had it taken so long and what was being done to speed up the process?


In response, Councillor Parrish stated that the Housing Infrastructure Funding (HIF) was part of the Government’s programme to accelerate the delivery of new housing.  In the case of Staplegrove it also had the added benefit of delivering additional affordable housing.


Whilst it was initially hoped that the delivery of the Spine Road at the start of the development would prevent the need for a temporary access, the need to deliver new housing as early as possible would require new dwellings to be constructed alongside the construction of the Spine Road.  It had therefore been confirmed that there remained a need for a temporary access, but this would be in use for a considerably shorter period of time than would be the case without HIF.


The timing of the release of the funding sat with Homes England who were undertaking the necessary due diligence.  The Council had provided all the information requested, but they were handling a large number of cases which had meant that the process in relation to all of the awards had not been as swift as it might otherwise have been. There was no reason to suggest that the delay was anything more than this.


We currently did not have a date for when the money would be transferred.


g)    Alan Debenham asked the following three questions:-


In view of the Government’s recent budget announcement that the cap was to be lifted on Councils’ borrowing to build many more new Council houses, where on the agenda was there mention of this extra borrowing and all the extra rented Council houses to be delivered?


The important arts and cultural side of Taunton’s adjustment to truly becoming a Garden Town rested greatly on its ample cheap public transport, its green shrubbery and floral displays, its library facilities, its park and ride usage, a vibrant indoor produce and stall market, thorough pedestrianisation of the centre to banish all non-public services through traffic, aesthetic and emphatic connectivity between the town centre and its wonderful parks and River Tone.  How was it that all these essentials were undergoing either continuing austerity cuts or little development at all?


Everyone now had stark awareness of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s published grave dangers facing us all of catastrophic climate change and rising sea levels unless the world reduced its carbon emissions by 45% in the next 12 years, and to net zero by 2050.  How had the Council responded, or would respond, to this fearful news and why was there no mention of any urgent response on the agenda for this meeting?  


In response:-


Councillor Beale replied that he was very pleased that the Government had lifted the cap which should allow the Council to increase its stock of housing.


Currently, the officers were looking at how the Government’s decision would ‘pan out’ and what needed to be done to access the additional funding that would be available.


He added that the Council was heavily involved at the moment with the re-development of the Woolaway dwellings in North Taunton.  This would result in a lot more affordable housing being available compared to the present.


Councillor Edwards disagreed with Mr Debenham’s question as many of the examples he had highlighted had not been subject to continuing austerity cuts.  For example, pedestrianisation was underway, the Park and Ride had been saved by the Council, a Country Park had been established at Longrun Farm and further land had been acquired to provide another park to the north-east of the town and Taunton Deane still invested in floral displays.


This was due to the Council seeking to protect front line services and investing in the town.  The Council would seek to continue to do this in the future as a result of Transformation.


Councillor Berry announced that he was not in a position to answer the question, which was one for the World….not just the Council.


He was aware that many people were ‘doing their bit’ locally to reduce their impacts on the environment.  As far as the Council was concerned, more plastic than ever was being collected for recycling and carbon production at The Deane House would be significantly reduced once all the refurbishment works had been completed.


However, reducing petrol and diesel consumption of the vehicles on our roads would not happen unless there was more financial support from the Government.


h)   Roger House welcomed the proposed traffic restriction to St James Street but felt it was also time to close North Street to cars to make Taunton a real pedestrian friendly town centre. 


By doing so, we would gain space to create a Touring Coach Rendezvous Point with free parking to attract many more private coaches.


North Street was the natural point to bring tourists with the Brewhouse Theatre, the main churches, the River Tone, Castle Green, the Museum and toilets, within walking range of older people.


With lower levels of future economic growth predicted, the Council could still capture more coach trade from the M5 if it acted quickly before planned attractions nearby came into being.


Could the Council make the closure of North Street a priority and by attracting coaches make our traders a bit less grumpy!


In response Councillor Parrish stated that the closure of North Street had been muted on numerous occasions over the past 25 years but was still some way off despite there being some support for it.


The current proposals, welcomed by Mr House, involved the permanent closure of St James Street between North Street and Lower Middle Street.  This meant that access to the area would still be able to be gained via Canon Street and Middle Street.


Temporary closures were currently being proposed for Hammet Street and East Street and, if these were introduced, would initially be for a trial basis so their effects could be assessed.


i)     Gideon Amos spoke about the impacts of the potential removal of 40 Commando Royal Marines from Taunton.  It was not just a military issue but one that would have a significant impact on Taunton’s economy.


He asked what the Council’s policy on the matter was and whether this took into account the views of the Norton Fitzwarren Ward Councillors and the growing local petition to the Secretary of State for Defence that he had started against the proposed closure of Norton Manor Camp and the relocation of the Marines.  The petition had so far gathered over 1,500 signatures and the campaign to halt the closure was supported by the Somerset County Gazette.


Mr Amos stated that following initial pressure to think again about the closure of the camp, an announcement had been made that it was unlikely to close until 2028 which was encouraging news.  He felt that if all parties worked together there was a chance of keeping Norton Manor Camp open.


In response, the Mayor reported that if it had not been for Norton Manor Camp where her husband had been posted in 1995, she would not have moved to Taunton.  She felt that Rebecca Pow MP was best placed to apply pressure on the Secretary of State to reverse the current proposal.  She added that most people in the local area would support the retention of 40 Commando in Taunton Deane.


Councillor Bob Bowrah reminded Members that he was the Council’s Armed Forces Champion.  He stated that he had recently attended a meeting of the Armed Forces Covenant Board at Tidworth Garrison in Wiltshire where the proposed closure of the camp was discussed.  The matter was therefore a County-wide issue not just a Taunton one.


Councillor Williams referred to the Motion on the agenda which would follow shortly which he hoped all Councillors would support.