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Giant containers could be installed in town centre

A similar scheme in Bristol

MENDIP District Council is planning to install an office block made from steel shipping containers, by the river,  next to the Cheese and Grain in the centre of Frome.

If the plans go ahead, 20 shipping containers will be installed alongside the Cheese and Grain and will be used for office space and storage.

But the plans have come under fire from local people who say the containers are not appropriate and will take up valuable space used for large events.

Critics say the land is in the historic centre of Frome, is used for a range of community events, and would overshadow long-held plans to enhance the river Frome as it flows through the town centre.

The proposals have been criticised by the Cheese and Grain, which borders the land. They said, “It is vital that other parts of the land around the Cheese and Grain are designated for public events like the Festival Food Feast and the Children’s Festival. The car park on the east (high wall) side of the Cheese and Grain must be kept available for such uses. This is really important and there must be guarantees that this will happen.

“As for the west (river) side, it will need very careful management. A canoe club meet coinciding with a band, or other big event at the Cheese and Grain, is going to pose serious parking and traffic management/loading problems for both the club and the Cheese and Grain. The canoe club will find it very difficult.

“It should be an attractive civic space, a town square you can park in, rather than just a car park, and should not be treated as the “backside” of Frome, akin to a service area at the back of a factory or supermarket. The market place, our high street, is a very busy road. Frome has no other central public space apart from the Market Yard car park.

“Representatives of the Cheese and Grain are meeting with Mendip District Council to discuss the scheme to see what can be done to ameliorate/make the best of the scheme, if it goes ahead.

“Ambitious plans put forward last year for improving the area around the Cheese and Grain, creating a town square that can be parked in (rather than just a car park) are now likely to be shelved.”

A spokesperson for Mendip District Council said, “Mendip District Council is seeking planning permission to develop quality work space in the heart of Frome, aiming to help address a well-documented shortage of workspace in the town, as well as rejuvenating an underused area of the Cattle Market car park.

“The initiative seeks to provide office space housed within specially converted shipping containers, in a similar vein to the highly successful Boxworks development at the engine shed in Bristol. The concept has many advantages, providing fully serviced flexible workspaces that can be rented to businesses such as small tech, media and creative businesses. The collection of small business together, along with the service and support package offered, fosters a real sense of community, with opportunities to share ideas and network.

“There is a chronic lack of office space in Frome and we have a large body of evidence (collated in conjunction with Frome Town Council) which outlines a strong business case. Many businesses are lost to other towns and cities as a result of the lack of suitable work space in Frome and this proposal seeks to help address this and keep businesses within the town.

“It is proposed that facilities for the offices will be provided by the Cheese and Grain and we are working closely with them to ensure that the proposal will be a mutually beneficial scheme which will enhance the successful venue and community space. Likewise, we are working with Frome Canoe Club to mitigate the impact of the proposal and ensure they can continue to thrive.

“The full plans for the project can be viewed on our website by searching on the planning search facility for application 2017/2307/RE3.”

The scheme will be discussed at the planning advisory group of Frome Town Council, on Thursday 14th September, at 7pm, at the new Town Hall on Christchurch Street.

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