I REFER to your article on the redevelopment of Coal Orchard in last week’s edition. I do not share your enthusiasm for the scheme, nor do I agree with the glowing terms in which the council spokesman presents it.

In the planning application for the development, the council openly states that Coal Orchard “…has a small scale, vibrant and ‘artisan’ character…” and that they would take “…an approach that aims to retain and reinforce the existing grain and scale of development and adds to the mix of land uses to the site…”. The earlier outline application, although not perfect, at least made some attempt to meet those objectives by proposing small shops for the use of independent retailers, restaurants, bars, a work hub space, apartments and “some car parking.” The current proposals completely disregard these objectives.

The proposed small shops within Coal Orchard itself have been replaced by restaurants, cafes and a 456 square metre gym. None of the 42 apartments has a car parking space and the work hub space (offices) is dropped entirely. Sadly, affordable housing has not been provided – not a good example to set to private developers.

READERS: Plans to redevelop Coal Orchard submitted to council

The council proposes that the well-used car park will be reduced from 120 to 42 spaces and eight (not four as claimed in the planning application). Disabled spaces will be reduced to two. Not a measure a caring authority should even consider. The loss of so many car parking spaces and the competing demands for the few that remain will severely hinder the future development and success of Coal Orchard. Traders, and Brewhouse Theatre, health centre and church will all be affected and it is anybody’s guess where apartment owners will park their cars.

There is no supporting information about the impact of service vehicles on the site. One drop off point will serve the greater part of the site and it is likely that service vehicles and residents’ delivery vans will be queuing up to gain access while others will block the car park and access roads.

Coal Orchard is a special place and deserves better treatment from the council. The proposed architecture is unsympathetic and the blocks, whose size and height might be acceptable to Firepool, look incongruous. They have forgotten the area’s unique selling point – its human scale, its haphazard arrangements of alleyways and spaces, and its variety of specialist shops. This character is not reflected  in the proposals since there is no variety in the street scene, no varied uses and no sense that you are in a place very different from the rest of the town. It is insensitive.

I can’t help feeling that the council has embarked on this scheme in frustration that Firepool has stalled. No private developer would touch this site in such uncertain economic times. The council, as developer, seems to be blind to what is going on in the real world and is taking a huge financial risk at our expense.

However, there could be a solution. Once the baths have been demolished, a three-storey block of town houses and flats with car parking could be constructed. The money from this could finance a decent car park and provide a proper pedestrian link between the river footbridge and Foundry Lane. This would improve the appearance of the area and in the meantime help sustain a vulnerable area of the town. The site then should be left well alone until economic conditions improve and a more realistic and sensitive scheme can be designed. The council should withdraw the planning application.

Readers should visit the council’s website and look at the application (38/18/0185) and object.

Martin Pakes, Taunton