STUDENTS and staff at an independent school in Taunton will be enjoying lunch in a brand new £3.6million dining room from next spring.

The new kitchen and dining facilities at Taunton School is the single biggest investment in the school's infrastructure for a generation.

The dining hall, which will cater for 1,600 covers and seat up to 450 people at a time, will be built using sustainable materials and will use the latest lighting technology and energy-saving devices.

The light and airy space will not only reduce the school's carbon footprint, but will also provide a calm, relaxing environment

Headmaster Lee Glaser said: "We believe that what happens at mealtimes has a powerful impact on the rest of the day.

"We are creating a welcoming facility to give our students and staff space to sit, talk and eat together in a beautifully-designed, gadget-free and relaxing area.

"This project has taken several years of planning and consultation and we are delighted that is now coming to fruition.

"We are aiming for minimal disruption by completing the majority of the work during the summer holidays and we are looking to deliver an outstanding facility on budget and on time."

An official turf cutting ceremony involving students and staff was held last week and the project is due to be completed by next spring.

Taunton School does not outsource its catering and the new facilities will revolutionise the daily routine for the 40-strong catering team.

Head chef Lisa Roberts, who has worked at the school for 25 years, said: "We pride ourselves on using local ingredients to produce over 72,000 breakfasts, 240,000 lunches and almost 70,000 suppers every year for the students and staff.

"We create, cook and serve on-site every day so having a brand new, purpose-built kitchen will make a huge difference to the team as it will make food preparation both easier and more efficient and enable us to create even more exciting menus for the school."

The new facility, which will be one of the largest events spaces in the area, will also be available to the wider community for events and functions

The current dining hall in the Grade II listed main school building dating from 1870 will be reconfigured to provide a new sixth form centre and teaching facilities.