We at ArtsTaunton were delighted to read the 3 letters last week referencing the unimaginative plans at Firepool. The views expressed chime with what has been ArtsTaunton’s dogged mantra about this, in tandem with the Garden Town status, and the points raised demonstrate the rich seam of creative thinking we have within the community – but also the level of frustration.
Given that the the Council is in a state of flux and re-configuring personnel roles, that the retail sector is struggling, and that according to national press reports, developers St Modwen also appear to be in a state of uncertainty and offloading some of their projects, we could have a perfect storm for the status quo, or insufficient focus afforded to the once-in-a-century opportunity to place-make. However equally, this could be the golden opportunity we need for a change in strategic thinking and development of plans of which Taunton is more deserving.
We appreciate that the Council cannot just magic up innovative buildings, art installations, premises with aspirational architecture and amenities designed to allow local artists to showcase their talent – that much is down to the developers’ sense of what will create a vibrant new area within defined resources. However now is the time for the Council to exploit their knowledge and skills and manage this complexity to positive effect, to ensure that all stakeholders share a clear vision and values for Firepool, and above all, encourage them to be creative and innovative.
Focusing initially on dull and utilitarian bricks and mortar and on a fragmented retail offering, seems to be cart before horse. This is not just about serving the artistic members of the population, or simply those who hope to see buildings and installations which have a gravitas and aesthetic worth. There are proven links between a focus on the arts and the well-being of a community, and it goes without saying that if Taunton becomes a preferred destination town (as is Frome – not a million miles away from us), then inward investment will follow – the retail sector and the economy will benefit.
Let’s have a Firepool glowing with creativity, not just 14 acres of spent ashes.