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Frome town council aims to take control of Saxonvale site

Frome Town Council has voted to take up the reins of the Saxonvale site in order to speed up development of the area and to give the town more control over how the site is developed. 

The Saxonvale site currently has a live planning application from developers, Frontier Estates, but progress has been slow. Now, Frome Town Council has discovered that under the Localism Act, powers for authority over the site could be transferred from Mendip District Council to the town council.

Frontier Estates and local campaigners Frome For All, have both expressed concern that Frome Town Council is hoping to take over the Saxonvale plans.

However, leader of the town council  cllr Mel Usher explained, “The Frontier Estates application for a large supermarket and some shops has run into major difficulties. It is now a year and a half since it was submitted and we are still no nearer a resolution.

“It’s time for Frome to take the lead and drive forward a scheme that Frome needs. This project will work towards establishing a Neighbourhood Development Order for the site and would mean that we in Frome can decide what we want and search out developers who can deliver that for us.

“There’s a long way to go but it’s an important moment of decision for Frome as a town; whether to try and do the right thing or, as some advocate, do nothing and just let market forces decide. I know which one I prefer.”

In their own proposal, Frome Town Council recommends the Saxonvale site is considered in two parts; one on the east side to provide business space, affordable housing, education and training facilities; and a western part to make a ‘limited’ expansion of the town centre with new shops and additional creative workspace buildings, a re-energised Kingsway precinct and a riverside walk linked directly to the town centre.

Frome Town Council will now allocate £16,000 from the 2015/16 Neighbourhood Plan to budget for the initial application phase.  The first phase will involve working closely with Mendip District Council and other landowners to secure co-operation, and an application to Government agencies to secure the necessary funding for a second delivery phase.

Opposition

Frontier Estates has rejected the claim that their application has stalled, and insist they will continue with their plans to go ahead.

Company director Damian Wood said, “We note with concern the recent comments by a spokesperson for Frome Town Council. Our application for the regeneration of the Saxonvale site is still live and we are committed to delivering investment into Frome.

“The town has some particular highways issues which need to be addressed in order to allow any development in the wider Saxonvale area. We have been working with Mendip District Council and Somerset County Council to find the solutions needed to unlock the site and to deliver this investment.

“We are confident that we will find the right solution for the town shortly and we look forward to regenerating the site with a high quality mixed-use development that benefits the people of Frome.”

The town council’s proposal has also been met with concern from community campaigners Frome For All.

The group, who campaign for improved shopping for local people, has said the council’s approach is undermining the prospect of the significant extension to the town centre.

Speaking on behalf of Frome for All, Elizabeth John said, “We support the current planning application, which if approved by the district council will bring a range of new ‘High Street’ shops, a medium-sized food store, new public squares, new business space, a new home for the adult learning centre, a new hotel, a riverside walk and around 300 new jobs to Frome town centre.

“I would have hoped that the town council would seek to work positively with the developer to achieve the best outcome for the people of Frome but instead we see the town council opposing it and spending large amounts of public money on trying to come up with an alternative scheme

“We are also concerned by the reference to ‘a limited expansion of the town centre’ (by Frome Town Council) – we want to see a substantial extension to the town centre so that local people have the range of shops they want and need in their own town centre.  People should not have to travel out of town for shops that could be provided locally.

“We would urge the town council to work positively with the developer who has been working for a number of years to bring forward the regeneration of this site.  They should not be spending public money on alternative schemes whilst there is a live planning application or unless they have the full support of all the relevant landowners.”

More details of Saxonvale’s future will be announced as the case progresses.

 

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