Garden Towns plan must include sufficient employment space

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Sally Stark of Bruton Knowles

Ambitious plans to create three ‘Garden Towns’ at Staplegrove, Monkton Heathfield and  Comeytrowe & Trull outside Taunton must incorporate significant employment zones.

That’s the view of Bruton Knowles’ Taunton office, who say while the Garden Town status could create thousands of new homes and associated infrastructure the scheme must also provide locally-based jobs.

Sally Stark, from the firm’s Heron Gate Office Park base, said: “The Garden Towns scheme is likely to take up agricultural land and should create new opportunities for employment.

“Otherwise, the new homes will not be affordable for the local population and communities may be unsustainable.

“Taunton has lacked the large scale employers who could help provide work for the Garden Town population – so we could see thousands more people looking further afield for work and – inevitably – adding to the burden on the M5 at junctions 24 and 25.

“But properly planned new commercial employment sites close to the Garden Town and supporting road and public transport infrastructure would have a beneficial economic effect on the whole area.”

Taunton’s bid has been selected to be among the first wave of Garden Villages and Towns earmarked for large-scale residential development.

The new communities are expected to deliver between 1,500 and 10,000 properties with green spaces, new transport links and high quality affordable homes.

Some £1.4 million has been earmarked to help the Town schemes get off the ground.

“While Housing Minister Gavin Barwell has said the new communities will provide new jobs and facilities, he has been less forthcoming on where they will be provided.

“The local authorities have outlined their plans to improve access to the surrounding countryside and how they will link green space to housing/employment sites through country parks, community woodland and recreation areas. But it is crucial that the new Garden Town includes appropriate commercial space.

“Taunton itself is lacking in employment opportunities and there are not many big players in the town capable of offering work to such a steep increase in the population.”

“Our fear is that the majority of Garden Town residents will eventually join the many thousands of commuters who head out of the town to find work in Bridgwater, Bristol or beyond.”