GRAND plans for a £670,000 water sports activity centre to 'bring the River Tone alive' in Taunton are set to be inspected by a rowing legend today (March 28).

Backers of the proposed Centre for Outdoor Activities and Community Hub (COACH) will welcome Olympic rower and wannabe Conservative MEP James Cracknell to the town.

He will be meeting various groups in visits to Firepool and French Weir Park.

The COACH vision is for a purpose-built facility where the current toilet block is, next to the foot bridge, at the park.

Its purpose would provide people of all ages access to a centre promoting 'sport, activity, education and community values'.

The design of the building is described as 'iconic, green and functional'.

Organisers have so far had £200,000 towards the overall cost approved in principle and now have bids in to a number of funding bodies to try and lever out the rest.

James said: “I am really looking forward to coming to Taunton and taking to the water in support of this project. This is exactly the kind of facility we need to offer our young people.

“It's encouraging a healthy life style and it will bring all the benefits that come with water sports and other sporting activities and I can certainly speak from experience!”

Ian Payne, the project's development officer, said: “The project will bring the river alive. It's in the heart of the town and would make the river a much more attractive place.

“The COACH charity supports the people to pursue an active lifestyle for life, introducing, encouraging and enabling a wide spectrum of ages, abilities and interests to become a part of the vision.”

Mr Payne, also a teacher a Taunton School, said the charity is inclusive, with potential users not excluded on cost or access grounds.

The project has the backing of nearby park friends groups as well as Somerset College, Taunton Deane Council, Taunton Rowing Club and Taunton Adventurous Sports and Canoe Club.

Mr Payne added: “The London Olympic Games inspired not one, but several generations to do the things they had always wanted to do but the legacy should be lifelong and so needs a permanent home.”

The Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Taunton Deane, Rebecca Pow, who invited James Cracknell to visit, will also be taking to the water.