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Issue 330 – TV presenter joins Saxonvale campaign

TV presenter and local resident, Kevin McCloud, has backed the campaign to stop a large supermarket being built on the Saxonvale site.

The presenter of Channel 4’s Grand Designs helped to launch ‘The Saxonvale Manifesto’ last Thursday at Rook Lane Chapel. The manifesto has been put together by the group campaigning against the possibility of a large supermarket on the Saxonvale site. The manifesto explains the background of the Saxonvale development, sets out the campaign’s case against the big supermarkets and puts forward alternative ideas, as well as outlining the campaign’s plans for the future.
Campaigners say that they want to see Saxonvale developed, but without the big 40,000 square foot supermarket that the developers are planning.
In introducing the manifesto, Kevin McCloud said, “Frome is undergoing a period of great change. It is finding its voice (10 of its councillors were recently elected on an Independents for Frome, ifF, ticket) and quickly evolving, along with a small and noble band of towns like Brighton and Totnes, into a very 21st century community that places sustainability at its centre.
“We should not damage the potential for this exciting change by passively allowing the rebuilding of Frome’s core sites by remote and aggressive developers, nor by supermarkets. The supporters of more big retail development say that Frome needs to compete with Trowbridge. But it is already competing, in a unique way, through the growth of dozens of small independent retailers who flourish here, that include the national award-winning Whiterow Farm Shop and the shops of Catherine Hill and Cheap Street.”
He continued, “In the spirit of local enterprise – which seems to do so well in Frome – we should all be fighting off the likes of Tesco and other big retail, supporting the council, writing to our MP and reminding those in power that big commercial proposals for small towns run counter to the Government’s agenda for localism and the Big Society.
“The development of the Saxonvale site near the centre of Frome is a great opportunity which will not arise again in our lifetimes and it’s an opportunity which should be given to local people.”
Kevin McCloud joined Luke Wilde and John Harris of the campaign group last Thursday at the well attended public meeting at Rook Lane Chapel. Both Luke Wilde and John Harris emphasised that the campaign is at a critical junction as land ownership and agreements on the site are changing.
John Harris, Frome resident and Guardian journalist, voiced his doubts that a developer-led public consultation on the site would bring valid results. He wants the campaign to be more than a campaign, but also a consultation with the public on what they want from the site. The meeting also identified a need to take the campaign out into Frome and engage with people who may see benefits of the choice of a big, cheap supermarket in the town. Kevin McCloud also commented on this subject, pointing out that there are already supermarkets such as Lidl and Asda to provide this.
While praising Frome’s “independent spirit and character”, Kevin McCloud championed Mendip District Council’s 2005 Development Brief for Saxonvale, which sets out a vision for the site which does not include a large supermarket.
Members of the meeting expressed a desire to retain Frome’s character and develop its community-led ethos, pointing out the town could be an example to the rest of the country. Kevin McCloud said, “Frome has this fantastic potential to show other communities what a thriving place this is.”
• The manifesto and updates on the campaign are available online at the campaign’s blog: http://saxonvalesupermarket.blogspot.com

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