COUNCILLORS have supported plans to make funding available to support ongoing works to refurbish the historic Toneworks site in Wellington – although it was claimed that the “ordinary guy or woman in the street doesn’t care” about the project.

Members of Wellington Town Council’s policy and resources committee met on February 20 where they discussed a request for financial help to fund extensive works being carried out by the Somerset West and Taunton Council to protect and repair the Toneworks site.

Toneworks was the cloth-finishing works of Fox Brothers, one of the oldest and largest woollen textile manufacturers in the South-West of England. It is a rare example of a textile finishing works retaining all its textile working machinery.

Cloth production ceased in the late 20th Century and Toneworks finally closed in July 2000. Since then it has been placed on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.

But Somerset West and Taunton Council has been working towards preserving the site and bringing the buildings back into life with commercial, cultural and creative uses.

The site has become recognised by Historic England as “nationally significant” and has ploughed nearly £1m into the project in grant support.

Representatives of Somerset West and Taunton Council attended Wellington council’s policy and resources committee and outlined that funding was needed to cover some works that were not included in the Historic England’s financial package.

A council report showed a “shopping list” of items with a total of more than £100,000-plus.

But the idea of Wellington taxpayers’ money being put into the project was not one which went down well with Cllr John Thorne. 

“I will not support the town council putting this money into this,” he said. “I don’t think the majority of people we represent on this council feel this is important to them.

“If this is of such national importance then get the national bodies and organisations like Historic England to put the money into it.

“If we did a survey of people about where they think this council’s priorities should lay the Toneworks would rank very lowly in my opinion.

“It’s not important to the ordinary guy or woman in the street.”

Cllr Andrew Govier said: “I understand what Cllr Thorne is saying, but I do think we need to look at the wider picture of this.

“I feel there is merit in this and if this site does get regenerated it could be economy generator for that part of town.

“I think it’s important that the local town council puts some money into this.”

Cllr Govier suggested that funding could be taken from the council’s Community Infrastructure Levy pot which had around £500,000 sat in that budget.

CIL, as it is known, is a charge that local authorities can set on new developments in order to raise funds to help fund infrastructure, facilities and services needed to support new homes and businesses.

Cllr Marcus Barr said: “I’m looking at this in a positive way. It is a good thing for Wellington – trying to get the town on the front foot.”

Councillors recommended putting £50,000 into the project – although Cllr Thorne wanted his opposition to the idea to be recorded.

A final decision on the matter will be made by Wellington’s full council on March 6.