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Mendip District Council could lose millions on Saxonvale development claim campaigners

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Mayday Saxonvale has issued a statement claiming Mendip District Council is set to lose millions of pounds after the recent Acorn Property Group amendments were posted to their Saxonvale ascheme. The group is calling on Homes England to retract any grant payment for this development until the financial dealings with Acorn are made transparent and released in full. 

The statement reads, “Acorn have posted a JLL Viability Assessment in the latest round of amendments to their planning application in Saxonvale formally benchmarking the value of the site at £6m and reducing the affordable homes provision to 20% down from the Core Target of 30%. The addition of a Homes England Grant of £3.95m, will be used by means of enabling works to raise the number of affordable houses built from 53 in total to 63. 

“Acorn is contesting the Local Plan benchmark of 30% affordable housing expected in mixed-use developments of this scale and the report claims that it is only because of the Homes England grant, that an increase up to 21% can be provided. 

“Specifically intended for affordable housing provision, the grant would add a further 10 homes towards the quota at an average of £395,000 per home. But in JLL’s report, the construction cost of each affordable home is set at £107,107 so where is the remaining £2.8m going? The report suggests it would be spent on other development costs but on the construction costs provided, the grant could actually provide 36 affordable homes above the total set by Acorn.

“The developers would be absorbing this extra money themselves rather than using it for the intended purpose and Mayday Saxonvale is raising these concerns directly with Homes England.

“JLL’s benchmark value for the Saxonvale site has also been contrasted with an expenditure total by the district council in the region of £9.45m spent so far on the Acorn scheme. This value by JLL projects a loss to the council of at least £3.45m. The actual sunk cost total is not in the public realm however and does not appear anywhere in the JLL Viability Assessment. Until full transparency is established and the town knows what the real situation is, losses on the Acorn scheme will continue to mount.

“The ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy’ is when so much money has been spent that in an effort to recover a portion of the losses, even more money is committed with no limit in sight. In return for all this sunk cost expenditure, Frome will have an undemocratic housing scheme with the affordable housing quota cut by almost one-third imposed by the district council blotting out the town’s last viable employment and commercial zone and stifling the town’s real growth and prosperity for years ahead. 

“With no clear idea about what Acorn will actually commit to build or even when, Frome’s district councillors must now intervene. Having failed for months to engage with urgent questions raised by the Mayday Campaign, this cycle of financial mismanagement has to be broken. Mayday Saxonvale is calling for everyone in the Frome community to contact their district councillor and ask them why they have been allowing this situation to continue. 

“Acorn’s scheme has clearly failed but the alternative plan being developed by Andrew Kirby Architects is not for profit and therefore far more viable. By taking this option, we can all be empowered as a community to reclaim Saxonvale for Frome and bring this disastrous state of affairs to an end. Is even one of our district councillors brave enough to break ranks? We shall see.”

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