Taunton Living Landscape
Taunton is our county-town and is a town that still retains a rural, easy-going charm, lying in a natural valley between the Quantock, Blackdown and Brendon Hills. Taunton retains three substantial green wedges to the south, west and north east, still offering easy access to the countryside from the town centre. There is a network of green infrastructure, comprised of watercourses, verges, formal parks, private gardens, country parks, and assorted community greenspaces, plus pedestrian and cycle routes. 7 Local Nature Reserves (LNR) contribute 56 hectares of wildlife habitat to the overall greenspace provision. All this has enabled the town to retain a diverse array of wildlife and although habitat connectivity throughout and around the town is quite limited, sites within Taunton still count rarer species like kingfisher, barn owls, dormice, water voles, otters, and bats amongst the wildlife contingent.
Somerset Wildlife Trust’s vision for Taunton is town that is rich in wildlife, where existing green spaces and new are linked across the town, further enhanced by a wildlife-rich network of clean rivers, streams and man-made watercourses. Local Authorities and decision-makers see a nature-friendly town as a valuable and attractive asset and work to protect and enhance it for people and wildlife through all possible policy and planning opportunities. Taunton’s communities are proud of their green spaces and are active in looking after their local patch. New, large public community parks are established, with the Trust having a lead role in ensuring good management and community use.
To explore potential for reconnecting people to the wildlife and green spaces of Taunton, the Trust embarked on the first phase of an urban Living Landscape initiative with its ‘Routes to the River Tone’, three year Heritage Lottery Fund project. Finishing mid-2017, it has demonstrated that communities in Taunton value their green spaces and are motivated to get practically involved in managing them to help protect the town’s wildlife and to create great spaces for recreation and relaxation.
Taunton is one of the most rapidly growing towns in the South West, with housing growth targets of an additional 15,000 dwellings over the current Core Strategy period (2011-2028), with associated business and retail opportunities to bring corresponding employment with the new population growth. As we move into the next phase of our Taunton Living Landscape the Trust must develop its skills in working with planners and housing developers to maximise benefits of green space provision in terms of location and connectivity to other spaces; and management options of these that incorporate wildlife and maximise potential for community participation.
Pushing the importance of green infrastructure from simply a wildlife perspective is just one way to gain traction with key decision makers. We need to raise appreciation of the multiple benefits that access to high quality natural assets can have upon the physical and mental health and well-being of residents, and the associated longer-term savings across health and social care budgets arising from active people using and enjoying their local environment.