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Easthill to become asset of community value?

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A green space in Frome could be secured as a community asset in a bid to prevent a new housing development on the site. 

The Easthill site in Frome. By Bharati Pardhy.

Mendip District Council’s cabinet voted in early-November 2020 to build more than 160 new homes across five sites in a partnership with Aster Housing – including up to 77 homes on the Easthill site on the A362 Warminster Road.

The council agreed to ‘pause’ the Easthill proposals in late-November following a backlash by local residents and environmental campaigners.

These residents – led by the Friends of Easthill Field – are now pushing for the site to be declared an asset of community value, allowing locals an opportunity to buy the land ahead of any new development.

Under the Localism Act 2011, the community can invoke a six-month moratorium on the sale of any asset of community value.

They can use this time to put together an alternative bid to purchase the land on the open market in order to prevent unwanted or uncharacteristic development.

Simon Bishop from the Friends of Easthill Field said, “We are applying for the land to be an asset of community value because Easthill Field is used and treasured by the community, many of whom have written movingly about their memories of the field and what it means to them.

“It is an open green space that is currently, and has been historically, used to benefit the social, mental and physical well-being of the local people.

“Recent events where trainee gravediggers destroyed part of this priority habitat has reinforced our belief that the field will only be safe in the hands of the community.”

Photographs surfaced on social media in late-January showing part of the Easthill site having been damaged by trainee gravediggers, who the council claimed dug in the wrong place due to a “communication error”.

Campaigners undertook a litter pick in the field on Tuesday (February 16), including the area which had been damaged by this activity.

Group member Nicola Player said, “When we went to inspect the damage after the gravedigger incident, we noticed how much plastic and other rubbish had blown in from the road and the cemetery and thought it didn’t look very loved.

“Our litter-pick is just one way we are working to maintain the beauty of Easthill for everyone who enjoys coming here.”

Frome Town Council, the Somerset Wildlife Trust and the Woodland Trust have all given their support to the Easthill conservation proposals.

An update on the council’s social housing ambitions came before a virtual meeting of its scrutiny board on Monday evening (February 15).

Julie Jackson, the council’s performance and improvement officer, said the council was aiming to move forward with as many of the housing schemes as possible to deliver new homes by 2023.

She said in her written report, “Work has progressed in relation to tranche one of the programme, with agreement being given for two sites in Street and one in Glastonbury to be transferred to Aster Housing, subject to planning consent.

“A decision in relation to the transfer of the site at Easthill in Frome has been paused pending further review.

“The potential of other sites across the district is being explored, including informal dialogue with a range of potential providers.”

Nick Petts, representing the Friends of Easthill, said the council’s approach to development had to change in light of its climate emergency declaration.

He said, “Climate and ecology can’t come second to asset management. Financial decision-making has to change to reflect the seriousness of the crisis.

“Easthill presents the council with a perfect opportunity to put its climate objectives into practice – to protect the biodiversity, habitats, natural processes and carbon stores we already have.

“This site only needs to be protected from development in order to contribute substantially to Mendip and Somerset’s ecology and climate emergency strategy.”

Theresa Padland asked about the impact which the coronavirus crisis had on the future of the site, including the length of the ‘pause’ agreed by the council in late-November 2020.

She said, “We appreciate that Covid is affecting the running of the council, and wonder if the pandemic has affected the timeline of the pause.

“Which groups or bodies is the council engaging with in order to find alternative brownfield sites, and are other areas in Mendip being considered?”

Councillor Chris Inchley, who chairs the scrutiny board, said the group would receive a full written response on this matter.

The council’s asset of community value panel will meet to discuss the status of Easthill on Wednesday (February 24) at 4pm. The meeting will be live-streamed via the council’s website.

By local democracy reporter Daniel Mumby.

One Response to Easthill to become asset of community value?

  1. japanese knife

    February 22, 2021 at 12:50 pm

    It can be near unthinkable to find well-informed individuals on this matter, however , you appear like you know the things that you’re covering! Many Thanks

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