The winning of £14million for Taunton High Street has been hailed by LibDem councillors who launched the original bid as a huge boost for the town, achieved “against the odds” and vote of confidence in the new Council vision, a bid we described as “ambitious” in your County Gazette at the time.
From the opposition benches two years ago LibDem councillors won a change of heart from the ruling Conservative Council which wasn’t intending to bid for the funds. Councillors Simon Nicholls, Alan Wedderkopp, Mike Rigby, Dave Durdan, Simon Coles and Habib Farbahi got together with independents like Dave Durdan and community volunteers like Dixie Darch to consult on the idea at a key local business event in February and worked with council officers to get the bid submitted in record time by 22nd March 2019.
Leader of the LibDem majority Somerset West and Taunton Council Federica Smith-Roberts said:
“I’m absolutely delighted we have won this funding for our County Town. The funding will help the projects we have been working on in Taunton since we took office in May 2019, along with half a million pounds which SWT is already putting in to high streets across the district. The council’s hard work over the past two years is helping all our high streets face the challenges of the Covid crisis, and our ambitions are undimmed”.
Cllr Habib Farbahi who first raised the idea in 2018 said today:
“We launched this bid against the odds, at a time when the then Conservative council wasn’t interested in bidding for the money, but the funds it now provides will help renew, reshape and improve our town centre, the experience it offers and its ability to drive growth and ensure future sustainability. Given the scale of investment, the bid demanded a full business case, including public and private sector finance, such as from residential investment. I am therefore delighted that by working together our collective efforts have manifested today in our county town benefiting from £14Million of funding which will enable improvements for pedestrians, a new Firepool Boulevard linking the station and river crossing through Coal Orchard to St James Street, the High Street and Vivary Park, as well as cycle parking infrastructure in the town centre. I very much hope we can also tap into the £22Billion Research and Innovation Fund in the near future”.
Gideon Amos, the LibDems’ Taunton Deane Parliamentary Spokesperson added:
“The fact this bid was put in against the odds shows just how much the LibDem councillors achieved. Let’s get behind everyone who is now trying to renew our town centre in a positive way for the environment”.