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Controversial Asda extension plans approved for Frome

ASDA’S controversial plans to extend their Warminster Road store have been given the green light by Mendip District Council.  

The planning approval includes a contribution from Asda of up to £250,000 towards improvements to Frome town centre.

It also requires a flood warning and monitoring scheme at Wallbridge to be installed.

The permission is for an extension of 1,837 square metres (gross floor area) to take the store from 5,870 square metres to 7,707 square metres. It also includes the provision of a home shopping hub (to enable internet orders to be sourced from the stores), and internal re-arrangements which include a larger cafe.

A number of local groups say they are disappointed at the decision, having objected to the application on the grounds that Frome does not need any more supermarket space, and the development would be detrimental to town centre shops and businesses.

Councillor Dickon Moore, Mayor of Frome and vice-chair of the town’s planning sub-committee said, ‘There is some disappointment that this application was approved given the town council’s concerns about the potential impact of the growth of this out-of-town store on the town centre.

“We are pleased that there will be some mitigation through a contribution towards the remodelling of the town centre and signage that will help to promote the centre of Frome.  This is something that the town council had called for and the offer of £260,000 is a significant sum.

“However, my understanding is that the details of the S106 agreement [contribution to the community] are subject to further consultation with ward members and so we await the outcome of that consultation.”

Richard Swann, chair of the Frome Civic Society said, “The large extension to Asda is another unwelcome addition to Frome. The town has no need for any more supermarket space. It is already saturated with more sales area per person than any recorded in Britain. This is about the battle between the big supermarkets extending their grip on non-food trade and home delivery.

“Although this is a very disappointing decision, it makes it even more evident that another massive 50,000sqft superstore at Saxonvale would be unviable and a waste of valuable land which could be put to much better uses for the benefit of the community and local economy.”

Nigel Harris, president of the Frome Chamber of Commerce said, “The Chamber opposed Asda’s application, particularly in order to prevent it prejudicing the more important developments in the Westway and Saxonvale, which we feel should take precedence. In addition, we were not convinced that Asda and Mendip District Council had properly assessed the full impact of the extension – a massive 54% increase in the retail floorspace – on shops in the town centre.

“However, we are pleased that Asda agreed to two additional s106 conditions which the Chamber put to them before the planning meeting.” These conditions cover funding for signage at Asda to advertise the town centre, and £10,000 contribution towards improved road signs in the town centre.”

The planning application for Asda’s extension was unanimously approved by members of Mendip District Council’s planning board on 11th December.

Asda plans to build the extension this year and says it will generate up to 25 jobs for local people. The extension will create an improved store environment, warehouse alterations, and a new roof plant.

Estates town planning manager for Asda Alan Jones said, “We’re pleased with the decision. It’s taken a long time and a lot of commitment by the local authority and ourselves to come up with a proposal that’s right for all parties.

“We’re now in a position to offer a wider range of goods and better facilities, and we look forward to bringing more retail choice and Asda’s famous lower prices to Frome.”

The proposals for the store, which opened in 2005, were submitted in March 2012. They were recommended for approval by  Mendip District Council.

Discussions have since taken place with the Highway Authority, Environment Agency, Somerset County Council and officers from Mendip District Council about the design, size, access, traffic, retail impact and a flood warning system.