PLANS to demolish a swimming pool to make way for a multi-million pound riverside development have been approved despite opposition from residents and councillors.

Landowner Taunton Deane Borough Council secured full planning permission to build, shops, restaurants, 42 homes, a gym and offices on and around Coal Orchard car park in Taunton at a meeting on Wednesday (September 12).

TDBC secured outline permission for the scheme, which includes the demolition of St James Pool, in April 2017.

A number of residents and councillors spoke out against the scheme and said they think it is ‘wrong development’ for the Coal Orchard site.

Councillor Libby Lisgo said the plans looked like ‘prison cell block H’ and a ‘carbuncle’.

“I look at this design and what I have to say I see is something ugly and something that is potentially going to be an eyesore almost in the middle of our county town,” Cllr Lisgo said.

“Does this design meet local needs and aspirations in the Coal Orchard area? Undoubtedly no.”

She also said the reduction in parking spaces to 42 shows ‘no regard’ for neighbouring amenities

Councillor Marcia Hill echoed Cllr Lisgo’s comments and described the building’s design as ‘overbearing, dark and bulky’.

“I am really concerned about the car parking – it is cut down badly and is going to affect a lot of people who use it. A lot more people will be using it so it is just going to get worse.

“I am not against the redevelopment of this site, it does need something, it is looking a little tired.

“The design looks like a prison block with an exercise yard in the middle, it could be a better design.”

Martin Pakes spoke on behalf of a 1,138 people who signed a petition against the development.

He said members of the group displayed the plans put forward by the authority at Coal Orchard and ‘most people were absolutely appalled by what they saw.’

“They thought this was going to be a cultural hub associated with the theatre, with small independent shops, something that would be appropriate for the centre of Taunton, not this mammoth scheme of flats and shops,” Mr Pakes said.

“The designs are totally out of character with Coal Orchard.”

Mr Pakes said providing 42 flats without car parking spaces is ‘beggars belief’ and branded the lack of car parking as ‘ridiculous’.

He claimed a lack of disabled car parking spaces will affect the church, theatre, medical centre and shops and urged councillors to defer the application for further consideration.

Despite the opposition Andrew Clancey from MACE, the agent for TDBC said the scheme will have a ‘good impact on the economy’ and will create up to 100 jobs and increase footfall into the town centre.

“We have introduced affordable housing to Block A and have improved the cycle way,” Mr Clancey said.

“Thirty per cent of the scheme is already pre-let and we have been having discussions with national chains who have shown interest.”

Councillor John Williams, leader of TDBC, also spoke in support of the scheme and said it is a ‘link’ between Taunton train station and the town centre.

“It is a very important project on a very important site, “Cllr Williams said.

“It is a riverside site and it is a good design and a good choice of use.”

Councillor Norman Cavill, echoed Cllr Williams’ comments and said: “Unlike some of the other councillors my glass is half full.

“People come to Taunton to eat and shop, I have recently spoken to people living in a development of 1,100 homes near where I live and they were really positive about this.

“I think this will be good for Taunton and will be an attractive offering to people.”

Councillors voted to approve the plans with eight voting for and five voting against.