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‘We don’t want them!’ Alternative site for ‘container’ workspace sparks more controversy

MENDIP District Council’s controversial plan for an office block made from steel shipping containers in the centre of Frome is still attracting strong objections, despite a proposal for a new site.

The council had originally proposed to install 20 specially converted shipping containers in the Cattle Market car park, close to the Cheese and Grain and Frome Canoe Club. The converted containers would provide fully serviced workspaces that could be rented to businesses, such as small tech, media and creative businesses.

Now, the district council says after listening closely to the concerns of the local community, it is proposing a second option, changing the site of the containers and moving them across the car park to the Justice Lane area, alongside the public toilet facilities.

However, the proposal of the new site has done little to curb the public’s  fierce objection to the plans with, at the time of going to press, 233 of the 239 comments made on the Mendip District Council’s planning portal opposing the project.

Concern has also been raised on the Frome Past and Present Facebook page. “Another totally unsuitable place to site these awful things, if Frome must have them, which I don’t think they should, why not site them on one of the industrial estates, there are plenty of those at all corners of the town and they would not make the town centre look like a dockyard or a rubbish tip,” said Sue Golding.

“Stop suggesting alternative sites. Nowhere is suitable for these hideous things. Once they are in place they will never be removed. No matter how dreadful, rusty, unsightly they become. They will ruin Frome,” added Maggie Rist.

“So they want to put them where they are an eyesore and when everyone says NO they want to put them where they are even more of an eyesore. WE DON’T WANT THEM IN TOWN full stop,” said Carol Paniccia.

Black Swan Arts who are located near the site of the new proposal have raised concerns as to how this would impact their centre. Trustee of Black Swan Arts, Rebecca Morland, said, “Black Swan Arts is very concerned about the proposition for 20 container offices to run along Justice Lane and how they would affect our thriving but vulnerable Arts Centre.

“As yet we have only had informal exploratory conversations with Mendip, and obviously require further discussions and a formal proposal prior to making any decision. In principle our Trustees support young business development and ambition.”

Somerset County Councillor for Frome East, Martin Dimery, said, “I am delighted that Mendip District Council has responded to the huge opposition to the siting of Boxworks by the Cheese and Grain and Canoe Club. A business initiative that effectively undermines the business interests and functions of two of the town’s great assets would be absurd.

“I strongly favour using an alternative site, like Saxonvale, but suspect that Mendip officers are determined to build on the Market Yard. In which case, the Justice Lane end of the car park would be less intrusive, although I’m sure there will still be objections.”

Cllr Tom Killen, portfolio holder for economic development and deputy leader of Mendip District Council said, “This scheme is all about attracting new businesses to Frome by tackling the shortage of suitable workspace in the town and it is clear from the feedback we have received that there is widespread support for our innovative approach.

“For Frome and Mendip as a whole to thrive, it’s essential we do all we can to attract new businesses to the district, as well as retaining those businesses which are already well established.

“However, we recognise that some are unhappy with the current proposed position and so we are a proposing a new position alongside Justice Lane following promotion of this alternative site by local individuals and groups.

“We are currently finalising these new plans and have also started speaking with Black Swan Arts about how we might work collaboratively with them.  We are hopeful these proposals will be available to be viewed, and commented on, over the next month.

“I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to let us have their feedback on our initial plans, especially Frome Canoe Club for the positive and constructive talks they had with us.

“The key driver behind our proposals is a determination to make sure Frome gets the workspace it so badly needs and I hope the local community will be supportive of our new plans.”

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