DIGGERS could be on Firepool by Christmas - and people could potentially be watching films in a cinema on the site some time next year.

A planning application to develop the former livestock market could be submitted within weeks and approved by late summer under a sped-up process, according to a senior councillor

The proposal for the council-owned plot would include the cinema, homes, food and beverage outlets and shops.

A feasibility study is currently being carried out to see if it is financially viable to build a multi-purpose venue to stage concerts and other performances.

The LibDem-run Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT) is keen to see some movement at the riverside site off Priory Bridge Road, which has been vacant since the last Taunton Market was held there on January 17, 2008.

The project had stagnated under the previous Conservative regime at the former Taunton Deane Borough Council, which was abolished along with West Somerset Council ahead of the formation of SWT last year.

The new administration ripped up the previous plans and one of its first tasks when taking up office was to look at the Firepool site from scratch.

Council executive member Cllr Mike Rigby said: "We'll be on Firepool before Christmas carrying out groundworks and prep work.

"The planning application will go in in March and probably be permitted in August or September, allowing us on site before Christmas."

He said SWT would use a Local Development Order to grant automatic planning permission, cutting red tape and making the decision making process faster.

Cllr Rigby said an operator for a five-screen cinema has been lined up, although a contract has not yet been signed.

He added: "We've got a really good architect and consultants have done some work on the feasibility of a multi-purpose venue. They think it can work. It's looking positive.

"Firepool will feature a good mix of things that will bring people into Taunton."

A public exhibition last November unveiled proposals for apartments, town houses and flats, offices, cafes, bars and restaurants and possibly a local supermarket.

There were also suggestions the site could house a performance venue, cinema and innovation centre, while the Great Western goods office could be used for food and beverage.