For immediate release
2nd October 2012
Put Jobs First
Time to End House-building on Employment Land in Taunton
Independent Local Councillor, Mike Rigby, calls on Taunton Deane Borough Council toprotect employment land from residential development, citing the need to maintain employmentopportunities. Rigby points to concerns that Taunton is losing out on new jobs to Bridgwater andWellington at a time when commuting is becoming ever more expensive.
Mike Rigby is urging Taunton Deane to halt its policy of redeveloping industrial estates and other business premises for housing. Recent years have seen aswathe of former employment premises demolished to make way for housing in the County Town,with major sites such as the 62 acre Taunton Trading Estate, Taunton Cider Factory, land at theRailway Station and numerous smaller sites across the town. Sites like the old Malthouse andCounty Garage near the Cricket Ground well-known among them. Rigby
said “What we need right
now are jobs. The County Town can hardly be said to be open for business when we see ouremployment space continually eroded by residential redevelopment. If we need more housing thenwe are going to have to look for other sites,
including greenfield sites around the edge of the town.”“Successive administrations at Ta
unton Deane have attempted to see Taunton compete with majorregional centres, like
Bristol and Exeter. As things stand, we don’t even compete with Bridgwater,
let alone Bristol. Just look at the proactive view taken by Sedgemoor District Council in protectingand delivering employment land and attracting new businesses to Bridgwater.
Clearly, the nationaleconomy is currently struggling but we need to be ready to capitalise on the recovery, when itcomes,
with a ready supply of occupiable business premises. It’s no good pointing to undevelopedareas identified for employment uses, such as the Cattle Market site; the fact is they aren’t built
, willbe expensive a
nd won’t be available for some years.
Taunton Deane would no doubt point to thedevelopment of Blackbrook as an example of additional employment space but this is exclusivelyoffice space and does not replace the type of business space lost, for example, at Taunton TradingEstate. Even Somerset County Council is at it, threatening to sell-off County Hall as a hall of residence for Somerset College.In Bishops Lydeard, we are now seeing an attempt by developer Wimpey to entirely sweep away allthe employment elements of a mixed-use development at the railway station. This was adevelopment reluctantly accepted by many local people on the grounds that it offered employmentopportunities and boosted tourism. Now, with their planning permission in hand, the developer isattempting to do away with all those jobs, perhaps over 100, and replace them with 8 houses. Thismust stop if we are not to find ourselves lagging behind other towns and cities in our attempts toscramble out of recession.The concept of redeveloping brownfield sites ahead of greenfield was born out of the need toregenerate the large industrial sites abandoned with the shrinkage of UK manufacturing in the
1980s. But, according to Rigby, it’s now gone too far, with any and all commercial an
d industrial land
now at risk of residential development due to the frequently higher land values. “It’s time to protect
our factories, shops, pubs, warehouses and offices from the voracious appetite of housebuilders,who prey on any employment site, regardless of its continued viability
, urged Rigby.
always be some smaller sites where residential redevelopment will be appropriate given surroundinguses but the scale of loss in Taunton has gone well beyond what is sensible for the local economy.