Our Town Taunton
Somerset's county town is currently undergoing a �1billion regeneration<br/>to improve the quality of life for its residents and boost business.<br/>Sarah Ford heads to Taunton to find out more
Project Taunton is by far the largest town centre regeneration taking place in Somerset and one of the largest in the South West, creating at least 7,000 jobs, new employment and retail space, as well as thousands of new homes. Work has begun on the new commercial core at Firepool, a brownfield site, which was home to the former livestock market. The creative heart of the county town will bustle with a mix of independent shops, caf�s, workshops and apartments linked by riverside walkways. Visitors to the town can already see some of the key areas taking shape, such as one of the new public open spaces – Somerset Square, and Somerset County Cricket Club’s new conference centre.Central to the regeneration project is the River Tone, and this summer families have enjoyed access to the water and looked at their town from a different perspective on Taunton’s new passenger boat.Recently, the Mayor of Taunton Deane, Jefferson Horsley, cut the ribbon for the opening of the newest green space at Longrun Meadows. Led by a procession of musicians, over 300 people crossed a bridge from French Weir to mark the occasion and celebrate the start of an exciting new future for this historic Somerset town.
“Since coming to Taunton I have been won over by the variety of shops, floral displays and the eclectic mix of places to eat and drink,” says Tourist Information Lead Andrew Hopkins.“If you are heading to Taunton over the next few months, then don’t miss the Carnival on16 October”
“Among my personal highlights would be Vivary Park, where you can have a stroll and a picnic or enjoy mini golf and a permanent orienteering course. I am also looking forward to the new Museum of Somerset opening next year, which should be amazing. If you are heading to Taunton over the next few months, then don’t miss the carnival on 16 October and the Christmas lights switch-on day on 21 November. For more information please call the TIC on 01823 336344”
The Project Co-ordinator for Project Taunton is Robbie Lowe, who explains that a fundamental part of the regeneration of the town is to reinstate the River Tone as a significant focus.
“I live in the town and I am passionate about Project Taunton because it’s on my doorstep. I am so excited by it!”
“You hear all the time that towns have turned their back on the river; this town is beginning to face the river and to use it as a resource,” says Robbie. She believes businesses will be attracted by the quality of life to be found here and relocate to the area.“I live in the town and I am passionate about Project Taunton because it’s on my doorstep. I am so excited by it!”
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Taunton Castle is a Grade I listed Scheduled Ancient Monument which dates back to the 12th century and is home to the Museum of Somerset.The building is currently undergoing major refurbishment and will reopen in summer 2011 within Project Taunton’s re-created civic square – Castle Green.“This building has played a part in the history of Taunton for nearly 1,000 years”
Carrie Blogg, Project Manager for the museum, says that the services for visitors will be greatly improved and it is hoped that visitor numbers will double to over 60,000 a year.“There will be 25% more gallery space and 44% more of the castle will be open to the public, including some of the oldest areas.“This building has played a partin the history of Taunton for nearly 1,000 years.”
Donna Noll owns The Studio in Staplegrove Road, which offers Pilates, yoga, personal training and other specialist classes. A keen walker, she is delighted by the opening up of a new green space known as Longrun Meadows, which provides walking and cycling areas. “We also like to take the dogs up onto the Quantocks,” says Donna, who enjoys eating out in the town.“Edwardos at the bottom of Bath Place does the most beautiful food. I also like the French Connection on Station Road and Jenny @ Tristan’s on East Reach for meals which are perfectly cooked.”
Nearby Hestercombe Gardens is not only a major tourist attraction for the Taunton area, it is also a regular meeting place during the week for locals such as parents with young children.Sally Bennett is Marketing Manager: “We have over 50 glorious acres of Grade I listed gardens here, spanning three centuries of garden design.
“We have over 50 glorious acres of Grade I listed gardens here, spanning three centuries of garden design”
“We also have a restaurant and coffee shop and our 17th-century restored water mill is open.”Half-term holiday fun features a Spooky Trail and the Hestercombe Christmas Market takes place on 20 and 21 November. www.hestercombe.com
Taunton School makes a huge contribution to the local economy, according to its Headmaster,John Newton.
The school regularly hosts public lectures by well-known names such as Germaine Greer and Revd Ian Paisley
“As a successful independent school we not only prepare local children for fine careers, we also open our facilities and events to guests from the surrounding area, so that their lives are enriched too,” he says.The school regularly hosts public lectures by well-known names such as Germaine Greer and Revd Ian Paisley. On 11 October the John Rae Society Lecture will be given by Sir Peter Westmacott, British Ambassador to France. www.tauntonschool.co.uk