TRADERS are already showing interest in shops on Taunton's Coal Orchard Car Park, it is claimed - even before the foundations are in place.

The news comes as it emerges some of the phasing of work on the multi-million pound development could be put back to make "cost savings".

Work on the construction of shops, restaurants, homes and a gym, which was initially timetabled to start in February, has now been delayed until May.

The whole project is estimated to be completed in 18 months under contractor Midas Construction.

A report by deputy leader Cllr Mark Edwards to the full council meeting of landowner Taunton Deane Borough Council says there has been "good progress" on the scheme in recent months, although "the timetable became extended due to requests for extensions of time".

He said: "Some investigative survey work has been carried out during February, and this was co-ordinated with the digging of the final three archaeological trenches, so that car park closures were kept to a minimum.

"Over the next couple of months the contractors will be working on phasing and construction details leading to building works commencing in late spring.

"Prior to this, the contractors will provide information in good time before the erection of hoardings around the site, regarding parking arrangements and temporary changes to pedestrian and cycle routes.

"The build programme is still being finalised but will be approximately 18 months."

Cllr Edwards added: "We are working with our commercial agents, JLL, to ensure that the space and design of the units are attractive to leaseholders in the current market.

"We will be launching a marketing programme in early summer for both commercial and residential.

"JLL Exeter are already receiving enquiries for the retail units, and our residential agents Connells Taunton are taking details of early interest."

His report follows a Freedom of Information response from the council that casts doubt on the construction timetable.

It says: "Although a contractor has been appointed, the council are looking at some cost savings which may well involve changing the phasing.

"So therefore we are unable to inform you what the phasing will be at this stage.

"The contractors will arrange to contact all interested parties and neighbours in good time before the main works begin in late spring. Further information may be available then."

A Deane House spokesman said: "Coal Orchard is a multi-million pound development and we have a responsibility to ensure the contract offers the best value for money before work commences.

"There is no change to the phasing of the project and work is expected to begin in May."