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Keep Frome Local pledges renewed campaign on Saxonvale

A RECENT public meeting has demonstrated ‘overwhelming’ concern from the community about ‘seriously flawed plans’ for the Saxonvale development, says campaign group Keep Frome Local.

Keep Frome Local held the meeting at the end of last month to gather views from the public, following the revelation of Frontier Estates’ plans for the Saxonvale site which include a supermarket, shops for new retailers and a new public square.

The group was set up in 2010 to object to the possibility of a big supermarket on the site, and says that the current proposal for a supermarket is still considered by many to be ‘simply too big.’

Another key concern raised at the meeting was that the proposed development is isolated from the town centre, and could lead to major traffic issues.

Keep Frome Local reports, “Keep Frome Local (KFL) held a packed public meeting at the Cheese & Grain on Wednesday September 25th. Over 150 people attended, and expressed serious concern about Frontier Estates’ new plans for the Saxonvale site, as well as suggesting how its redevelopment might be different, and better suit the town. The shared view of those present was overwhelming; there are huge issues at stake in Saxonvale’s redevelopment, and Frontier’s current plans are seriously flawed.

“The meeting heard from town councillors Mel Usher and Pippa Goldfinger, who talked about the planning process and the role played by local government. They were joined by Frome Civic Society chair Ric Swann and Chamber of Commerce president Nigel Harris, who both drew attention to the current proposal’s shortcomings, and what they could mean for the town. There was disappointment at the decision by Frontier Estates not to take part in the meeting, despite being asked by KFL to meet the public, answer questions and explain their plans.

“The most crucial element of the night’s events came when people went into 10 working groups, and discussed their views about Frontier’s proposals, how Saxonvale’s redevelopment might be different, and what role Keep Frome Local, the town council and the local community in general might play in one of the most important issues to have faced Frome in years.

“People’s key areas of concern and opposition include the following issues:

• Most of the new development’s big retail units will back on to the town centre, meaning that the view from the Kingsway area will partly be of delivery yards. This will create a major eyesore, and compound the sense of a cut-off retail park on the outer edge of the town.

• There are serious traffic issues: first, the prospect of lorries servicing the retail units driving up and down the already-congested Vicarage Street; and second, supermarket traffic – again, including lorries – clogging up the mini-roundabout at Garsdale and surrounding roads.

• Although the vision of Saxonvale in Mendip Council’s Planning Brief was based on a “seamless extension” to the town centre and continuous pedestrianised access from Market Place to a new development, walking routes to the site will still involve the often perilous King Street, and the crossing of traffic-packed Saxonvale – both of which underline how cut-off the proposed retail area will be.

• There is a widely-shared view that the proposed supermarket is simply too big; with a footprint of around 60,000 square feet, it will be much the same size as the current Asda in Wallbridge: a size of superstore simply inappropriate for the town centre.

• People also raised things that a Saxonvale redevelopment might include; buildings and amenities for community use, cycle routes, smaller shop units that might be used by local businesses, a serious enhancement of the nearby riverside area, economic activity other than retail, and more.

“This was the fourth public meeting we’ve held since Keep Frome Local was originally founded in 2010,” said Keep Frome Local volunteer Luke Wilde. “As usual, the opportunity to gather together and discuss the town’s future gave rise to an informed and energized conversation, and produced a shared position that we’ll now campaign on.

“We’re here to give voice to huge community concern about Frontier’s plans, and make sure that the long-overdue redevelopment of Saxonvale results in something that enhances and complements the town, rather than threatening it.”