A BUSINESSMAN wants a multi-million pound Taunton riverside development to be ditched, claiming it will negatively impact on traders.

Eliot Haimes, of Scotsgrove Holdings, which owns and rents out several business premises in the town, believes proposals for shops, homes and restaurants on Coal Orchard will cost taxpayers.

Mr Haimes has written to councillors after meeting representatives of landowner Taunton Deane Borough Council to express concerns about the outline plans.

He said: "We calculate the proposed Coal Orchard development, if built, will lose the taxpayer over £4.5 million.

"To carry on with the development would clearly be financially reckless given the state of the council's finances at the present time, and the need to target them in the most efficient way possible in order to maintain frontline services."

Mr Haimes fears plans to cut car park spaces would hit shoppers, theatregoers, patients at a nearby surgery and worshippers at St James Church.

He said: "It generates a significant income of circa £250,000 a year for TDBC.

"The proposal is to reduce the number of car park spaces by approximately two-thirds and to build 42 flats, as well as shops and restaurants – at a time when more than one in 10 town centre shops are vacant.

"Reducing town centre parking provision will have a negative impact on the vibrancy and vitality of Taunton town centre."

Mr Haimes said only one in five people in Taunton's retail catchment area actually live in the town, with most visitors travelling in by car.

He added: "We strongly believe that, in the context of the projected £4.5 million taxpayer loss, the proposed development should be abandoned immediately."

A council spokeswoman said Mr Haimes's figures ignore "future income streams generated by the development".

She said: "Of course the council wants to make best use of public money and to provide a return for council taxpayers.

"The council has to think more commercially and to generate new income to compensate for the loss of central government support."

The spokeswoman added: "A business case for the Coal Orchard redevelopment was subject to due diligence and scrutinised through the democratic process before being approved by elected councillors.

"This investment will create a new asset for council that will produce an overall positive revenue stream for the benefit of all taxpayers.

"The redevelopment of Coal Orchard has long been part of the wider town centre regeneration and, more recently, Taunton’s garden town ambitions, which are supported by the Government."

She said there is plenty of parking capacity in the town and the loss of Coal Orchard spaces represents about two per cent of overall provision.