TWO years after Taunton was awarded ‘garden town’ status details have finally emerged on what, exactly, the title means...

Residents have been left wondering about what it all means after the announcement was made in January 2017, which saw Taunton listed among three towns to receive the status.

The initial idea was to ensure quality plans will be in place while the town expands by 13,000 new homes.

Extra funding was given to Taunton Deane Borough Council (TDBC) to figure out what changes it would make inline with its garden town aspirations.

Two years later, and a consultation has been launched so Taunton residents can have their say on how their garden town is formed around them.

The consultation is based around a document entitled ‘Taunton: The vision for our garden town’, which outlines five key ‘visions’ which council officials will have in mind when making future decisions.

Somerset County Gazette:

JOINED UP: Taunton's green spaces 

The document does not mean to suggest exactly what will be carried out in garden town, as that needs further detailed reports in the form of a delivery plans, but it provides the baseline from which plans can move forward.

A spokesman for TDBC, which is set to become Somerset West and Taunton Council following elections in May, said: “We set out here a vision for the town including major development projects already planned and hope it sparks debate and interest in Taunton Garden Town.

“The vision has been expressed in words and maps and illustrations.

“It is important that we agree a shared vision for the Garden Town that can guide the actions of many other stakeholders, not just the council, and that can be championed and owned by the whole town.

“This vision framework will influence all plan-making and development management decisions.”

There are no set government requirements for a garden town, and all places are expected to be different. Each Garden Town is expected to determine what the new status might mean based on local circumstances and characteristics

So what are these ‘visions’?

Firstly, the council wants to ensure we celebrate our roots and to understand Taunton’s ‘special character’.

A spokesman said: “Our roots are what give Taunton its special character. We want our town to be widely recognised for its culture and arts, education, excellence in sports and high levels of well-being, drawing on our outstanding local natural environment and fabulous green spaces to make it a highly healthy and enjoyable place to live and work.”

The second vision focuses on growing a ‘greener’ town by transforming open spaces and streets. This involves planting more trees, joining up green spaces, and making better use of our waterways and parks.

Somerset County Gazette:

ASPIRATION: What a new neighbourhood could look like in garden town 

The third vision is called ‘branching out’. This is aimed at ‘moving cleaner, moving smarter’.

The spokesman added: “We will integrate our transport network so it serves Taunton with much improved bus and appropriate vehicle links to our main destinations and make much better prioritised provision for walkers and cyclists encouraging healthier and more sustainable journey choices as attractive alternatives to travelling by car.”

The fourth aim surrounds the town centre, and figuring out how changes to the high street will impact garden town, as well as thinking about new and existing neighbourhoods.

“Taunton will deliver an outstanding built environment focused on places and spaces with high quality neighbourhoods, green streets and public spaces and with homes and buildings that are distinctly local in appearance,” The spokesman added. “Our houses, offices, employment areas, public services and road infrastructure will embrace innovation, will be energy efficient and will exploit the latest sustainable technologies.”

Lastly, ‘new shoots’ – as the focus turns to ensuring a prosperous business community.

The spokesman said Taunton will become a ‘melting pot’ of new ideas and emerging technologies in an increasingly digital-central world.

According to the government, A previous £1.135million has already been received to work on proposals, and a further £550,000 was given earlier this month to help the town deliver its new homes under the garden town umbrella.

The council appears to be meeting its targets, as latest figures published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show Taunton Deane was 191 per cent up on its target.

Somerset County Gazette:

VISION: What Market House in Taunton could look like under Garden Town plans 

From 2015-18, the Deane was tasked with providing 1,450 new homes. But by the end of 2018, 2,766 new homes had been delivered.

West Somerset Council was 130 per cent above target. This authority needed to provide 258 new homes, when 334 were delivered in the same time frame.

Taunton Deane was the highest authority in Somerset, with Sedgemoor 102 per cent on target, South Somerset 104 per cent, and Mendip 124 per cent.

But what does this all mean for us?

Well, TDBC officials say the garden town status gives us more ‘weight’ when applying for government grants.

So although resident may gripe about wanting to see more schools, better roads, and a list of other services which have recently been cut by a range of authorities, having garden town status makes achieving those goals that bit easier.

Nick Bryant, head of strategy for TDBC, said: “Garden town gives us a platform to deliver the homes the country badly needs, but to up the game in terms of quality, while respecting the character of Taunton.”

But what happens next?

The consultation will run until March 15, and TDBC representatives will soon be spotted in Taunton’s Orchard Centre handing out information on the town’s vision.

Once the feedback has been collected, it will likely be sent to a full council meeting where elected members will discuss their views and adopt the document, but it is unlikely this will happen before the new SWAT council is formed in May later this year.

By this summer, it is hoped a project delivery plan will be created, making way for more detailed guidance, codes and framework which will influence planning decision in the future.

The spokesman added: “This vision is just the start of work on Taunton Garden Town.

“It will be supported by a delivery plan to be prepared over the coming months which will provide detail to the individual strategies, projects and activities which will deliver the vision.

“Importantly, this delivery plan will not be a fixed document which will date but over time will develop into an online platform providing up-to-date information about strategies, projects and activities.

“The vision is also an important tool in informing some specific pieces of work for the council.

“It will influence work on the emerging local plan as well as more detailed design guidance emerging through a new urban development framework and design guide.

“This vision framework will therefore influence all plan-making and development management decisions.”

For more information on vision document, or to submit your feedback, visit