FIREPOOL in Taunton – earmarked as a primary development opportunity – continues to be used as a travellers camp site this week.
Several caravans arrived at the former livestock market on Priory Bridge Road last Thursday and they remained on the site today (March 4).
The travellers did not want to speak to the County Gazette when approached yesterday (March 3) and a photo posted on social media caused a stir when it showed Taunton Deane Council’s sign “delivering Taunton’s vision” next to Firepool with the traveller’s caravans in the background.
Kit Chapman, proprietor of The Castle at Taunton and member of Taunton Forward, a taskforce of people trying to improve Taunton’s business, shopping, tourism and leisure sectors, said the irony of the situation was “quite delicious”.
He added: “The huge hoarding at Firepool with the traveller’s site next to it sends out a bad message and shows we have an incompetent council.
“In one breath this is very funny, but in the next it is a joke too far.
“We are trying to drive inward investment but this is bad publicity for Taunton and for people like me and dozens of others who are trying to improve the town.”
Taunton Deane Council have earmarked Firepool as one of the main areas to regenerate as they look to provide for a population likely to increase by 20,000 to 85,000 by 2028.
Their plans for the site include a south-facing waterfront and a boulevard connecting the railway station to Coal Orchard, providing a gateway to the town centre from the north.
Other potential uses could include a number of large shops, including a major food store, a cinema and other leisure facilities, a cafe/restaurant, 400 homes or a multi-storey car park with up to 700 spaces.
Mr Chapman said Taunton is perfectly located with good communication networks and beautiful countrysides but claimed the council are frittering it all away.
He added: “It is driving me mad – we [Taunton Forward] want to work with the council and I have tried to arrange meetings because we are all in this together so I cannot understand why their Conservative members will not link arms with us to take this forward.
“It really does upset me and I am often accused of doing Taunton down but it is actually the reverse, I want to get something done.”
A council spokesman said officers have taken the first formal legal steps to clear the traveller encampment by serving them with a Notice of Direction to leave the site today (March 4).
The notice will require them to leave by 6pm tomorrow - if they don’t then a court order would be sought.
This follows efforts to encourage them to leave voluntarily.