Resignation call over Firepool site
SOMERSET councillors have called for their leader’s resignation as they demand answers over the future of the beleaguered Firepool site in Taunton.
Plans for the redevelopment of the town centre site were approved in March, but have stalled after developer St Modwen pulled out at the end of September.
A special full council meeting will take place in Taunton at which the future of the site and the wider effort to regenerate the county town will be discussed.
Council leader John Williams has said he has no intention of resigning, saying the request “flies in the face of reason”. He has called on councillors to “seize the opportunity” to shape the town’s future.
Councillor Simon Coles, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, called for the special meeting to “consider the implications of [St Modwen’s withdrawal] on the economic and commercial future of our county town’s regeneration”.
Mr Coles has called for Mr Williams and deputy leader Mark Edwards to both stand down in light of the delays in regenerating Taunton.
He has been supported in this request by five other borough councillors who represent the Taunton area – Christopher Booth, Habib Farbahi, former mayor Marcia Hill, Jefferson Horsley and Sue Lees.
Mr Coles said: “There is a desperate need for new thinking and transparency in the eyes of the public, as well as a genuine desire to bring forward the benefits of the River Tone running through the heart of the county town.”
Mr Edwards tweeted on Monday that he was exploring the possibility of building a convention and music venue on the Firepool site.
He posted: “Working towards outline proposals for a multi-use convention, conference and music venue at Firepool.
“Early days but initial investigations looking positive.”
But speaking the following afternoon, Mr Williams added: “First and foremost, it is extremely regrettable that we are suffering the delays experienced on Firepool, but there is much going on in the terms of securing planning consent and assembling the site.
“Whilst this is ongoing we are reviewing what is best for Taunton, as I am aware that across the council there is this wish to ‘get it right’.
“St Modwen’s departure from the scene, which seems to have triggered the call for this special full council, can only be regarded as an opportunity and we seize this opportunity to get it right.
“As for the call for Councillor Edwards and me to resign, it does fly in the face of reason when so much has been achieved over the last eight years.
“As a council we have come through one of the worst recessions in living memory planning and investing for the future, maintaining virtually all front-line services so valued by our community with £16.6 million saved for essential infrastructure and regeneration across Taunton Deane.”
The special full council meeting will be held at Somerset County Cricket Club on November 14 at 6.30pm.