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New project founder says plans are thwarted by land wrangle

A LOCAL man says he is frustrated in his plans for a project for those with learning and/or physical disabilities.

Paul Williams, founder of Just A Chance Limited, has approached Somerset County Council regarding a piece of land which the council says is unavailable. However, Paul Williams says he has been unable to see evidence of this.
The land, owned by Somerset County Council, was formerly a garden centre, located behind Colliers Court on Manor Road in Frome and was originally used by attendees of Colliers Court Day Centre. Paul Williams says the site has recently been left vacant and overgrown and he believes it would be idea to initiate his project.
He says he approached Charlie Fields, estates manager of corporate property for the council, to ask if the land was available, who replied, “We have an agreed sale on this land subject to planning. We have been progressing the development of this site for some time.
“I am afraid we have no other land that is surplus to our requirements that might be suitable for your needs.”
However, Paul says he asked to see documents relating to the land and submitted planning documents, but was told they do not have any central record department.
He told Frome Times, “I find this strange that a county council would have no copies of documents relating to the working of any department that fell under their control as this could lead to an abuse of power and or corruption.
“I then contacted Martin Dimery local councillor who offered to help where he could.
“By Cc Martin in the emails I received a response from Mr Fields. Although he keeps avoiding the question about any documents being seen by the public.
“His last email states “It simply does not operate as you suggest. The land is surplus to the Council”
“What does the first sentence mean? He says it is surplus to the council, which raises even more questions.
“Who decides what is surplus and how is this determined? There must be legal minutes taken of any meeting in respect of this and a list of councillors involvement to show due process has been carried out.
“Surely this land belongs to the community, acquired by tax payers’ money. There is a great need for this type of venture as there are many vulnerable people who are simply disregarded by society, but the council has a duty of care to provide and facilitate such schemes.
“I am convinced that this is being carried out because the people who would use it are not able to voice their opinion loudly like some other groups.”
Frome Times approached Somerset County Council for comment and a spokesperson replied, “Since 2010 we have sought to reduce revenue running costs and generate capital receipts by disposing of unwanted assets. This process is carried out in an open and transparent manner with any sites deemed surplus to requirements assessed by the asset strategy group to determine whether, directly or indirectly, they remain useful in meeting other priorities or targets set out in the County Plan.
“All decisions to sell land and buildings will be made in accordance with the current governance arrangements set out in the council’s Standing Orders and Scheme of Delegation. More information is available at http://www.somerset .gov.uk/organisation/council -buildings/.”

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