Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
Mr Martin Pakes spoke to present his petition, which requested the withdrawal of the proposal to construct a pedestrian and cycle bridge over the River Tone between Morrison’s Bandstand and Coal Orchard, Taunton (Planning Application 38/22/0347). He spoke for five minutes and made the following points (summarised):
· The response from the public had been horrified.
· The Council should have run a consultation exercise on site and the public was unaware of this forthcoming bridge.
· They had referred people to the Council’s report on the reasoning for the bridge but people had not seen the need, with the existing Morrison’s bridge in situ.
· The new bridge was considered to be uglier/industrial and trashed the landscaping either side of the river, which was an asset to the Town.
· This bridge was solely for the benefit of the Firepool development and not the Town Centre, which is felt to be what the Future High Street Funds was for.
· The Town Centre was not in a good state and was one of the main drivers for people coming into spend money.
· Concerns were raised around the process of hearing this petition.
· The Council was asked to reconsider the proposal and to visit the site.
Cllr Mike Rigby, as the relevant Portfolio Holder, responded and thanked Mr Pakes for his attendance and the petition. The plan to revitalise the High Street was to create an Active Travel Corridor all the way through from the Railway Station to Vivary Park. The existing Morrisons Bridge was considered quite inadequate as a footbridge and was short of the government guidance on active travel crossings. Adaptation of the existing bridge was considered cost prohibitive and would remove access at all for a period. The Bandstand was not considered to be used for a beneficial purpose. He agreed that the paving in the Town Centre was not good enough and projects were underway to rectify this. Officers had been keen to ensure that the role of developer and Local Planning Authority were kept separate.
During the discussion, the following points were raised:-
· Councils had invested in its roads, and Councils now needed to invest in walking and cycling routes.
· A query was raised as to whether there was any scope to remove the Morrison’s bridge and just have the one bridge.
· Officers confirmed that the structure of the ramps and steps on the Morrisons bridge were part of the flood defence work. The ramps would also need to be widened and the civil engineering aspect was considered to be very difficult. The options appraisal could be added to the Planning application to add narrative to the decision-making.
· The Morrison’s Footbridge was considered crucial to the cultural offering in that area e.g. Brewhouse.
· Councillors urged that the bridge was made to look as pleasing to the eye as possible and to address concerns over its visual impact.
· A maximum of 5 trees would be removed but the Council policies of a three for one replacement would apply. The Bandstand could be moved and re-used elsewhere. Officers stated that the bridge was designed to be minimalist in appearance and function. The base structure could be improved upon and officers would work with the Planning team on design questions.
· It was confirmed that there was a funding deadline associated with this fund of use by the end of March 2024. A whole new scheme from scratch would be difficult to deliver in the timescales. The fund was specified to deliver infrastructure rather than beautification.
· The Portfolio Holder accepted that there are things the Council could do differently with the application e.g. the Bandstand move and to expand on the rationale behind it. The Council would gauge responses from the statutory and non-statutory consultees.
RESOLVED that the Council continued with the Planning Application as developing authority.
Publication date: 09/03/2023
Date of decision: 15/02/2023
Decided at meeting: 15/02/2023 - SWT Executive