STUDENTS and staff at Taunton School will soon be enjoying meals in a light and airy new dining room thanks to a £3.6 million redevelopment of the school’s kitchen and dining facilities.  Local architect Chris Donoghue of the award-winning firm Wotton Donoghue, designed the new building, while Dorchester-based construction firm CG Fry will complete the build.

The project is the single biggest investment in the school’s infrastructure for a generation and will reduce its carbon footprint as well as giving students a calm, relaxing environment to enjoy their meals.

The new dining hall will cater for 1,600 covers and seat up to 450 people at any one time. It will be built using sustainable materials and will use the latest lighting technology and energy-saving devices.

The current dining hall is in the Grade II Listed main school building and dates back to 1870. It will be reconfigured to provide a new Sixth Form Centre and teaching facilities.

An official turf-cutting ceremony took place on 1 July to mark the occasion. The project is due to be completed by spring 2020.

Headmaster, Lee Glaser, said: “We believe that what happens at mealtimes has a powerful impact on the rest of the day.  We are creating a welcoming facility to give our students and staff space to sit, talk and eat together in a beautifully-designed, gadget free and relaxing area.

“This project has taken several years of planning and consultation and we are delighted that is now coming to fruition. We are aiming for minimal disruption by completing the majority of the work during the summer holidays and we are looking to deliver an outstanding facility on budget and on time.”

Taunton School prides itself on supporting the local economy – it already uses a host of local suppliers, including Pynes of Somerset for meat and Longman’s Dairy for dairy produce – and the new-build dining hall and kitchen is no exception.

The new facility will also be available to the wider community for events and functions and as a result of its flexible space and size, will be one of the largest hospitality events spaces in the area.

Unlike other schools, Taunton School does not outsource its catering and the new facilities will revolutionise the daily routine for the school’s 40-strong catering team. Head Chef Lisa Richards, who has worked at the school for 25 years said she was looking forward to working in the new kitchen.

“We pride ourselves on using local ingredients to produce over 72,000 breakfasts, 240,000 lunches and almost 70,000 suppers every year for the students and staff. We create, cook and serve on site every day so having a brand new, purpose-built kitchen will make a huge difference to the team as it will make food preparation both easier and more efficient and enable us to create even more exciting menus for the school,” she said.