PROPOSALS to develop Taunton's former cattle market site ten years after it fell vacant are set to move a step closer tonight (Wednesday).

A decision to grant an application for shops, offices, bars and restaurants and homes at Firepool is being recommended to be delegated to a planning director at Taunton Deane Borough Council at this evening's planning meeting.

But an opposition councillor has slammed the "outdated" scheme and says the decision should be taken by councillors, not an officer.

The project, submitted by the Deane's development partner St Modwen, includes plans for convenience shops, offices, a hotel, leisure and food and drink facilities, 200 apartments.

A previous application was rejected by councillors and LibDem councillor Habib Farbahi has hit out at the "unimaginative and outdated" fresh plans.

He added: "The site is too important to delegate to officers who have little commercial expertise - or job security as the result of further 25 per cent cuts proposed with the disastrous merger with failing West Somerset Council.

"The Conservative administration is living in the past. Ten years have gone since this site became vacant. An upmarket relatively small supermarket might then have been a viable proposition.

"Now with changes in shopping habits this is no longer so, and we risk having yet another run-of-the-mill supermarket and shopping centre within a few hundred yards of the town centre, already well supplied with both these amenities.

"We need to create sustainable quality jobs to enable our children to settle in Taunton with real opportunities, not part-time jobs at a supermarket or restaurant.

"We need to look at growth industries and future markets in innovation, not yesterday’s market trend.

"Firepool is the ideal site for research and development or an innovation centre as it has the entire infrastructure nearby with rail or motorway links to all major universities in the South West and to London.

"We need to be ahead of the game, investing in growth sectors such as medical science, environmental impact, renewable energy and education, not the pedestrian and already outdated supermarket and massive ground level car parking."

Council leader Cllr John Williams said: "The fresh proposals for development of the Firepool site aim to address the previous concerns of the planning committee, which centred on layout and design, rather than the principle of development and mix of uses.

"It will be for the planning committee to decide whether the application merits approval, in line with officer recommendations. It is also worth noting that the proposals closely follow the Taunton Town Centre Rethink document prepared in 2014, widely consulted on in the town and approved by full council at that time as the truly mixed development was welcomed."