PLANS for a pop-up shop to help small businesses in Taunton have been deferred.

At the latest Taunton Town Council meeting, councillors decided to set up a ‘task and finish group’ to look into the matter which will then be discussed again by the full council meeting at a later date.

Craig Stone, the council’s operations manager, said 25 businesses responded to a consultation that was launched in November 2023.

Several charities and businesses took part but the majority of those who responded made handmade goods.

Councillor Amber Packer-Hughes, who supported the project, said: “I believe there are two strands.

“One is to enable people who are potentially thinking of a shop to try that out, and the other strand would be people who are seasonal or with a small budget.”

The councillor’s concerns were on how to make the project sustainable and highlighted the issues of business rates and running costs.

Councillor Giuseppe Fraschini said: “I totally support the concept. I support the idea but not in its current form.

“I would like to see some successful stories, studies, and numbers to see how many people got a business out of it.

“We have none of that or what impact is going to have on our town. We should not implement policies that will cost us money, so I cannot support that.

“I support the policy, but as it is I can’t, I’m sorry.”

Cllr Fraschini also added businesses should be auditioning and presenting their business plans.

He also said businesses should not be put in competition with other businesses nearby.

Councillor Caroline Ellis said she was in favour and mentioned the positive example of Wellington, and added the council “already discussed that we are not making money out of it”.

Councillor Ray Tully said “it is a good idea, but it’s not practical”.

He also said those who apply should have all the facts and should know how much it will cost in business rates and running costs.

Councillor Federica Smith-Roberts said she is “totally for doing it” but also added the council needed “a little more info”.

Three options were highlighted as possible units for the pop-up shop.

The first two are the empty units in the Orchard shopping centre. One of them, with the entrance near the High Street, cost £15,000 a year, while the other, next to Greggs, cost £20,000.

The third one, on Fore Street, was the previous Jack Willis shop, which would cost £45,000.

The initiative was originally discussed at a council meeting in November last year when councillors unanimously resolved to proceed with plans to establish the shop.

At the meeting in November, it was also said that the project could cost £40,000.

Back then, it was said more details, including those on costs, would follow.

Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts previously said: “We want to come back to it before we move forward.

“Even if it costs £40,000 and we get £20,000 back, it is not losing money but investing in small businesses. I see it slightly differently.

“But the resolution is to come back to this and confirm the next details and commit to spending that money.”

Thanks to this scheme, small businesses could be able to try out the ‘bricks and mortar’ approach with a view to this opening the door for them and go on to rent another vacant unit.

The pop-up shop would also be available for organisations to have a base for community engagement or provide a cultural facility.