THE failure to develop a prime site in Taunton in almost a decade has led to the town attracting travellers rather than visitors, it is claimed this week.

The 14-acre Firepool plot, owned by Taunton Deane Borough Council, has become derelict after remaining empty since the livestock market relocated to North Petherton in January 2008.

An outline planning application submitted by the local authority’s development partner St Modwen for a supermarket and car parking, flats, shops, cafes and restaurants, a cinema and other leisure facilities was thrown out by planners a year ago.

Fresh proposals were deposited at the Deane House earlier this year, but they have still not been considered by the Deane’s planning committee.

Opposition councillor Habib Farbahi (LibDem) said: “The delay actually demonstrates that we’re not sure about the plans that we’re proposing.

“The Firepool site should meet our aspirations for a forward thinking progressive county town fit for purpose to create prosperity and exploit our natural advantage of being in the heart of the South West.

“Instead ten years later and nothing has happened - but I’m not surprised when the (Conservative) administration’s priority is bailing out failing West Somerset Council and spending millions refurbishing the Deane House.

“I’m not convinced that a supermarket with 400 parking spaces is the type of employment Taunton needs and nobody has worked out what the return is to taxpayers of a site worth about £10million.”

Mr Farbahi, who has called for the council to ditch St Modwen, added: “We need to entice visitors to break their road or rail journey to visit us in Taunton, but instead we have encouraged travellers, who have frequently arrived on the site with their caravans.”

Deane House leader Cllr John Williams said the authority is “carefully considering” the new proposals “to ensure the high quality required is delivered”.

He added: “The delay in bringing this significant application forward is due to technical issues surrounding transport and infrastructure, which are being worked on presently.

“It is important that the plans for this strategic site meet all our requirements in line with wider proposals which put the River Tone at the heart of Taunton providing links to the town centre and railway station.

“While not wanting to create undue delay, this is our opportunity to get things right and provide an exciting, vibrant new addition to our county town.

“We need to make sure that adequate time is taken to ensure this is the case, as I am sure the community will appreciate.”

The original proposals were refused after councillors criticised the design as looking like “a single large commercial car park”.

If the latest outline plans are approved, St Modwen would then have to agree a section 106 ‘planning gain’ contribution, while a number of compulsory purchase orders would be slapped on plots not owned by the council ahead of a detailed application going before councillors at the Deane House.

The company’s Peter Davies told the County Gazette earlier this year that he was hopeful of work starting on the site next year with a completion date of early 2020.