I refer to your recent articles regarding the ongoing delays to the Coal Orchard development.

Before I retired in 2018, I was a member of the Design Review Panel for Devon and Somerset. Had I been permitted to do so, I would have had a number of things to say about the developments which the former Taunton Deane council permitted along the riverside in Taunton.

The area around The Bridge is especially important in the town. I have always understood that the river crossing was a main reason for Taunton growing up where it did. Certainly, it features in many historic photographs, as well as in Harry Frier paintings. So one might reasonably expect great care to be taken in the design of any new buildings that are erected close to it.

Unfortunately, I do not think that the Coal Orchard scheme ‘measures up’. For example, your photographs show well the large expanses of grey profile cladding that have been used on the new buildings. Several members of the public have said to me how much they dislike this. It really does not seem appropriate in the centre of Taunton, where the predominant roofing material is slate. I was particularly disappointed to see this cladding being used, not only for the roofs, but also as a walling material.

Apart from materials, there also appear to be issues in the scheme relating to building lines, definition of public and private space, parking, overlooking, and compliance with the adopted Local Plan. Given that the site belonged to the local authority itself, this really does not seem good enough.

One key reason for these failings is that, despite allocating Coal Orchard for development as far back as 2008, in all the time that subsequently elapsed, Taunton Deane did not prepare a planning or design brief for such an important site. Some of the issues were raised at a later stage by the Council’s planning officers, but to judge from the outcome, their views appear to have been ignored.

One can only hope that more care is now taken with the design of whatever development eventually replaces the demolished Poundstretcher store, on the opposite side of the Bridge.

Philip Bisatt