Taunton Deane Borough Council operated a plant nursery on Mount Street in Taunton until 2006, when the operation relocated to new premises on Stoke Road at a cost of £450,000.
The property and surrounding land has remained vacant ever since, with reports that people have been rough sleeping in and around the property for “approximately five years”.
Somerset West and Taunton Council announced in September 2022 that it was considering re-purposing part of the site to provide additional parking for Taunton Deane Cricket Club, which plays at the nearby Convent Field.
The council has now revealed – in one of its last actions before being replaced by the new Somerset Council – that it is working with lawyers to try and remove those living in a “tented encampment” using trespass laws (with the intention to rehouse them elsewhere).
The Mount Street property is bordered by the cricket club (which rents its facilities from the council), Vivary Park, the Ellisfields Court retirement home and Ash Priors Road.
Councillor Mike Rigby, portfolio holder for economic development, planning and transport, gave an update at the authority’s final full council meeting, which was held in Taunton on March 28.
He said in his written report: “There have been people living in a ‘tented encampment’ in and around the old nursery site at the end of Mount Street for approximately five years.
“Our rough sleeper unit has consistently offered support and accommodation to those who are local and support to resettle to those who have arrived from outside the area – but such offers have been rejected.
“We have explored the option of implementing a ‘closure order’, but due to cost this is no longer our preferred option (or that of the police).
“Officers have sent all required information to Shape (our legal service providers) in order that they can progress the matter under trespass legislation. This process is taking longer than anyone would like.
“At the same time, we are progressing a lease with the adjacent Taunton Deane Cricket Club to permit car parking for the club on a small area of the site (pending planning permission). Draft heads of terms have been issued to the club.”
Mr Rigby added that the remainder of the site could be used for tree planting, with a survey expected to be carried out by the new Somerset Council later in the year.
Mr Rigby serves on the new council as portfolio holder for transport and digital.