A KEY employment site in Somerset’s county town will be sold off by Somerset Council in a bid to save money.

The Taunton Technology Park, located on Lisieux Way in Taunton, has been in public hands since 1972, with the main building being occupied by Thales until 2019.

The council – which declared a financial emergency in early-November 2023 – has been reviewing its property portfolio and plans to sell off large amounts of land and property to balance its books.

Officers have now put forward proposals to dispose of the technology park, claiming it is no longer delivering value for money for the taxpayer.

The technology park comprises three buildings on the western side of Lisieux Way, near the YMCA headquarters, the town’s ambulance station and the Little Explorers Day Nursery and Pre-School.

The largest and oldest unit, which dates back to at least the early-1970s, was originally occupied by Avimo Ltd., which manufactures navigation equipment for the British Army.

Thales took over the site in 2000 but announced its closure in 2006, with the building and its smaller neighbour remaining partly or wholly vacant ever since.

The smallest building, which was erected in 1996, is currently occupied by South West Pathology Services (a joint venture between Synlab and the Somerset NHS Foundation Trust), whose lease runs until 2037.

Somerset West and Taunton Council attempted to bring forward a housing scheme on the site in 2019, but found that the land was too contaminated for such a development to be viable without central government grants.

Sally Stark, Somerset Council’s strategic asset manager, said: “One of the main buildings has been vacated by the tenant and cannot be re-let or refurbished due to asbestos and other contamination issues.

“This building requires demolition and redevelopment of a large section of the site.

“Discussions have been held with our economic development and housing teams, and both confirmed that the site was of no interest to their service provision.

“The high cost of demolition and redevelopment, as well as the continued tenancy, precludes any other internal use and no other public sector partners [e.g. the police or fire service] have expressed an interest.

“Disposal of the property is considered the most appropriate option and will generate a capital receipt for the authority.”

Officers have not divulged how much the sale of the technology park will generate, citing commercial sensitivity.

The council is aiming to sell off between £15m and £20m of existing land, property and other assets (including its commercial investments) by April 2025, to help plug a projected budget gap of £87m for 2024/25.

Other measures to plug this budget gap include raising council tax by ten per cent, making £35m worth of cuts to services and using existing reserves.

The final proposals will be debated by the council’s executive committee on February 7 before going to the full council for final approval on February 20.