Campaign to Protect Rural England - Somerset

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Taunton Garden Town

4th January  2017

Taunton Garden Town - a Plea to Protect Our Countryside and for Full Consultation to Ensure Well-Planned Development

Countryside Charity says Taunton’s infrastructure is struggling with current levels of housebuilding - and our environment must come first.

The Somerset branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) recognises there is a national housing crisis and that all areas must play their part in accommodating new homes.  However, we are concerned that the announcement of new “Garden Town Status” for Taunton will create further pressure on the town already struggling with the pace and scale of current housing developments. CPRE Somerset is encouraged by the idea of new developments giving priority to quality green spaces and well-planned transport links – but we are adamant that these should already be at the heart of every new development. 

So what will Taunton gain from this announcement? It is perhaps easier to worry about what might be lost....

Certainly, Garden Town Status must not lead to any relaxation of planning regulations - as the current system is already heavily weighted in favour of developers.  The proposed “masterplan” for the Taunton Garden Town must be open to public consultation and should fit with the democratically adopted Taunton Deane Local Plan. 

We must avoid any further loss of our countryside.  Taunton is surrounded by good quality agricultural land – and we have already lost a great deal of this greenfield land to housing in recent years. CPRE has proved that there is enough brownfield land available in England to accommodate 1 million new homes.   We would prefer to see government efforts focussing on incentives for developers to take on brownfield sites which would provide quality and affordable homes for people in areas with employment and infrastructure already in in place.

Chris Lewis, CPRE Somerset Chairman said “CPRE welcomes efforts to tackle the housing crisis in the form of high quality, well-planned and well-located developments.  If Garden Town Status means that Taunton will have better green spaces and sustainable transport, then this must be seen in a positive light.  We would also like to see better links between town and country and we feel all new developments must have sustainable drainage systems to ease the risk of flooding in future years. Our main concern, however, is that Taunton’s infrastructure is already struggling under the pressure of existing housing development. Huge housing estates are already being built around Taunton before the necessary sustainable transport links, community facilities and local employment opportunities are in place. The risk is that these estates will become dormitories for people commuting to Bristol or Exeter for work. We fear that the sum of £350,000 promised with this announcement will barely make a difference and that this announcement will lead to a further push for development. We urge planners and politicians to ensure that the communities and environment of Taunton are placed at the heart of any new plans and that these plans are developed with full local consultation and not rushed through in the need to grab headlines."

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Somerset patchwork landscape