NOT for the first time my despair with the leadership of Taunton Deane Borough Council was given an airing in last week’s County Gazette.

It is a despair shared by thousands of fellow Tauntonians whose civic pride in Somerset’s County Town has been drained dry.

As an historic English town, our assets are impressive. We lie at the centre of the south west peninsula with easy access to an excellent national rail and motorway network.

Our health and educational facilities are outstanding. Indeed, we are now looking forward to the prospect of becoming a university town. And in the Somerset Levels, the Quantocks, Blackdowns, Brendons and Exmoor we are blessed with a magical hinterland.

More, world-beating institutions like Somerset County Cricket Club, the Museum of Somerset and Hestercombe are major attractions which have demonstrated what can be achieved when you work hard to raise your sights and aim high.

But perhaps most impressive of all is the sheer talent, energy and creativity of the people of Taunton Deane.

READ MORE: Hotelier hits out at 'state of turmoil' at Taunton Deane Borough Council

You find these qualities in all areas of our society - most evidently for me in our cultural life. Music, both choral and instrumental; the visual and performing arts; and festivals like Taunton Live in July, the Flower Show in August, Feast in September and our Literary Festival in November are just a few examples of an extraordinary output. 

However, Taunton’s dilemma is that this great energy and dynamic output fails to resonate down the corridors of The Deane House - not even at a time when our comparatively new status as a Garden Town should be the springboard for Taunton’s regeneration.

This new status should be inspiring the council’s leadership to transform the town into a place of national significance. We are searching desperately for a new identity. 

Many of us, yes, a whole load of us, are working hard to build a better Taunton, a County Town worthy of the title.

But we are blocked by a chronically risk-averse leadership which lacks the wit and ambition, the guts and go to grasp a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something truly fabulous for the town.

The moment is NOW!

With vast swathes of the town centre poised for redevelopment – from the railway station, through Firepool to the River Tone and Coal Orchard – this is our opportunity to put culture and the arts, entertainment and sports at the strategic heart of this regeneration.

As we all know, retail as the engine of a town centre’s economy is finished. 

So, what do we need? And need urgently?

In essence, it boils down to two things.

Firstly, a coherent vision and strategy (visions seem to come and go with this council!).

And secondly, we need a new leader of council - a champion with the imagination, commitment and political will to put Taunton on the map. 

Citizen of Taunton