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Market Place plans shot down by Mendip

PLANS to transform Frome’s town centre have got off to a sticky start, after Mendip District Council refused a proposal to pedestrianise the area surrounding the Boyle Cross memorial.

In an unexpected turn of events the district’s planning board voted against Frome Town Council’s application to pave over parking spaces in the Market Place, despite it having the support of a Mendip planning officer.

Town councillor and chair of Frome Planning Advisory Group, Pippa Goldfinger said, “I was surprised and disappointed that Mendip’s Planning Board has refused our application for improvements to the Market Place and the Boyle Cross.

“This application reflects years of hard work by council officers, extensive public and stakeholder consultation and cooperation between the three tiers of local government to ensure that every aspect from highways to conservation were carefully considered.

“The remodelling of the Market Place is included as a key policy of the Frome Neighbourhood Plan. It also forms part of Core Policy 6 of the Mendip Local Plan.

“The Mendip planning officers recommended approval for this application, yet the planning board decided to go against their own policy and their own officer’s recommendation – an odd decision! I’d like to thank the Mendip District Councillors from Frome who voted in favour of the application.”

The plan, if approved, would have seen the parking area opposite The George Hotel paved and the street furniture replaced.

The town council’s economic development and regeneration manager, Peter Wheelhouse, expressed his surprise that the application had been turned down.

Peter told Frome Times that it was “unusual” for councillors to go against planning officers’ recommendations.

Town councillor Mel Usher said, “This is a bit of a blow; improving the town centre was one of the centre pieces of our campaign during the election where the Independents won all 17 seats on the Town Council.

“The professionals at MDC were quite happy with the proposals and similar schemes had been mentioned in at least six reports, some of which were written and approved by Mendip officers and councillors.  I apologise to the people of Frome, we thought we had finally cracked this but it appears not. With goodwill on both sides no doubt we find a way forward eventually.”

Frome Town Council reported that the district councillors rejected the application  because they were concerned about the loss of parking spaces and the possible negative impact on the area’s heritage.

The council is now exploring ways to co-operate with Mendip to move forward with the application.