Nigel Pearce, Taunton Chamber of Commerce President – as published in Taunton Living – January 2020
It sometimes feels that Taunton is undervalued as a place to live and do business, and we often get reports that visitors are surprised at what we have to offer. The good things about Taunton are easy to list. A good compact town centre with a wide range of national and independent shops, enhanced by special areas such as Bath Place and St James Street. The Museum of Somerset, The Brewhouse Theatre, the Cricket Ground and the often forgotten Vivary Park which is a real gem. Add to this the great range of bars, hotels, cafés and restaurants then we have so much to offer, and I haven’t even mentioned the river running through the centre.
These only cover the town centre, but if you add the racecourse, Hestercombe Gardens and the easy access to the Blackdown Hills, the Quantocks and Exmoor National Park beyond then it’s not difficult to see what a great place we live in.
It can be argued that we have not always made best use of what we have, the River Tone being an example. But this is changing and developments like the one at Coal Orchard will enhance and make better use of it, and the guidance contained in the Garden Town Status should ensure that this will be continued.
Other infrastructure works such as the improvements at junction 25, although painful at the moment will make things better in the future, and developments at the station and perhaps the current discussions about the relocation of the bus station will also make public transport links more user friendly.
It is however also important to remember that development although hopefully good in the long term, always has the potential to impact on trade and the Taunton Chamber is always happy to listen to views or concerns from businesses from anywhere in the Taunton area, and to act as a voice and conduit to those that can assist. We can also draw on the experiences of the Chambers in other towns that are currently looking at similar schemes and we can get feedback from them as to what initiatives work and what doesn’t.
Having said all this, we must not become complacent, but the basics of what we have are good, the feeling within the business community is optimistic and so the signs are encouraging that investment both existing and new will continue.
The Taunton Chamber is actively involved in the many projects which are key to improving Taunton’s commercial environment which includes facilitating the current move towards a new Business Improvement District (BID), but also support and engagement with Somerset West & Taunton Council as they develop their Economic Development Strategy and The Garden Town Project.
The Business Improvement District if successful and implemented will have great benefits not only for the town centre, but for the whole business community, as a prosperous town centre all helps when new businesses are looking relocate, or existing businesses are looking to attract new employees.