WORK is expected to start in the autumn on the first homes on a derelict site earmarked for development to kickstart Taunton’s economy.

Regeneration firm St Modwen has hired Acorn Property Group to build 45 apartments and four four-bedroomed homes at Firepool.

The parcel of land will house a mixture of homes, offices, shops and leisure facilities, although to date only one firm, waste management firm Viridor, has moved onto the site.

Ben Cook, regional residential director for St Modwen, said: “We are delighted to welcome Acorn Property Group on board to deliver the first phase of homes at Firepool and drive forward continued development as part of the wider master plan for the site which will see 17 acres of former brownfield land transformed into an exciting mixed-use scheme with a waterfront environment in the centre of town, all served by improved transport links.”

It is hoped more firms will be attracted to the site once the £22million Northern Inner Dis-tributor Road, linking Staple-grove Road at its junction with Chip Lane to Priory Avenue, via Firepool, is complete.

Taunton Deane Council leader Cllr John Williams said: “This is a major step towards regeneration of this important town centre site and I welcome it.

“The fact it’s coming forward now reflects the much improved market conditions and underlines the importance that the rest of the site will soon benefit from direct access off that vital new road, the NIDR, a £23million investment.

“The start of the housing dev-elopment and the new road construction will really kickstart the regeneration of this important site.

“It also reflects our long held commitment to make the River Tone a focus for Taunton.”

Robin Squire, managing director at Acorn’s Bristol office, said: “We’re really excited about working in Taunton with St Modwen and Taunton Deane Council to deliver this residential phase.

“It’s a prime riverside scheme in a quality county town.”