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Easthill site campaign

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Frome residents are racing to save one of their town’s green spaces after the district council “paused” a move to build houses there.

The Easthill site. Photo by Bharati Pardhy.

Mendip District Council voted in early-November to deliver around 160 new affordable homes across five sites – including up to 77 on the Easthill site in Frome.

The cabinet voted to “pause” the Easthill element of the plans on Thursday (November 26th) after the county’s scrutiny board questioned how transparent the decision had been.

Residents are now hoping the plans will be scrapped for good when the full council meets this Thursday (December 3rd) to debate the issue.

Campaigners are also attempting to secure the site as an asset of community value – meaning residents can try to buy the land to protect if from any future development.

The five sites which the council owns and is seeking to develop with Aster Housing are:

  • Easthill in Frome (77 houses adjoining the cemetery and railway line)
  • Cemetery Lane in Street (33 houses adjoining the cemetery)
  • Cranhill Road in Street (29 houses on the western half of the existing car park)
  • North Parade in Frome (up to 17 homes on the rear part of the existing car park)
  • Norbins Road in Glastonbury (six houses on the existing car park, with access to St John’s School being retained)

The government announced in February 2018 that it would provide £826,000 to unlock sites for social housing in Mendip – of which £420,000 has been earmarked for the Easthill site.

The council’s scrutiny board voted to refer the decision back to the cabinet on November 16th, with Councillor Philip Ham describing the inclusion of the Easthill site as “absolutely ludicrous” and resigning from his position as scrutiny chairman in protest.

The cabinet agreed to put the Easthill element “on pause” on November 26th, with the remaining four sites being transferred to the developer as originally agreed.

Councillor Eve Berry, whose Frome Berkley Down ward includes Easthill, described the site as “a precious green space where nature does its work” and urged the council to permanently cancel its plans for housing there.

Addressing the cabinet, she said, “I am passionate about the site being preserved for future generations, and wonder if you all realise that the impending throwaway of assets by this administration, particularly the Easthill site in Frome, will damage the reputation of this council beyond repair and make a mockery of their commitment to the climate emergency.”

Concerned Frome residents have come together to form the Friends of Easthill Fields group, which already has more than 150 members on Facebook as of Tuesday (December 1st).

Founder member Simon Bishop said the group would push the council to list the site as an asset of community value, making it harder for the site to be developed in the future.

He said, “This is the first step towards buying the land, so that it can be kept safe.

“Once listed as an asset of community value with the local authority, the local community will be informed if it is listed for sale within the five-year listing period.

“The community can then enact the community right to bid, which gives them a moratorium period of six months to determine if they can raise the finance to purchase the asset.”

In addition to this campaign, a motion to scrap the Easthill development completely has been put forward by Ms Berry and fellow Conservative councillor Tom Killen.

This motion will be debated by the full council on Thursday (December 3rd) at 6:30pm. This meeting will be webcast via the council’s website.

Report by local democracy reporter, Daniel Mumby.

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