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Issue 314 – Saxonvale – have your say

CONCERNED campaigners have called a public meeting for Wednesday 1st December to discuss the possibility of a new supermarket on the Saxonvale site.

The organisers of the meeting believe that Tesco has plans for the site in the form of a Tesco Extra.
A new supermarket on the site could lead to dramatic changes for the town centre in the future as existing premises and facilities are modified to accommodate the new development.
The public meeting is to be held at the Cheese and Grain on Wednesday 1st December starting at 7.30pm and ending at 9.00pm. To cover the Cheese and Grain hire costs, those attending will be asked to contribute £1 on entry. The meeting is open to everyone.
“After decades of painstaking work the plan to re-develop the semi-derelict Saxonvale area, agreed between Mendip District Council and the development company, Terramond, fell through recently,” said one of the event organisers, Duncan Skene.
“A national development company, St James Investments, has stepped in. S.J.I. has strong links with Tesco and it is feared that they may be interested in constructing a ‘Tesco Extra’ hypermarket on the Saxon Vale site.
“Accompanying a store of this size would be a car park roughly twice the size of the current Market Yard car park. This is the size of store and car park that many hold responsible for the ‘ghost town’ feeling in Shepton Mallet’s High Street.
“Many Frome residents are concerned by the prospect of an enormous supermarket at Saxonvale and the threat that their town could become as dead as Shepton. Many people and businesses have moved to Frome precisely because it is not like other towns. One friend of a Frome resident who had been planning to move here is so alarmed by the prospect of a hypermarket arriving in the town centre that he is now revising his plans.
“To air the issues around the possible arrival of a massive Tesco store a public meeting is to be held at The Cheese & Grain on Wednesday 1st December at 7.30pm. All are welcome to attend, whatever their views may be.
“There will be a number of speakers at this meeting, including the eminent journalists Elisabeth Winkler and John Harris who have followed the rise of supermarkets in general and Tesco in particular for several years.
“Elisabeth Winkler lived in Frome for 10 years in the 1980’s. She was editor of the Soil Association Magazine for eight years and her ‘Real Food Lover’ blog was short-listed for a Guild of Food Writer’s award. A passionate supporter of independent shops, she has been involved in the ‘No Tesco in Stokes Croft’ campaign in Bristol, where she now lives.
“John Harris is a Guardian columnist, contributor to BBC arts review programmes and a Frome resident who has written extensively about the future of British towns, cities and villages. He also takes a close interest in what he refers to as, “the mess of issues surrounding supermarkets.” He has recently made a film about Frome for the Guardian website.
“At the time of going to press the developers, St James Investments, have not responded to an invitation to speak at this meeting. Mendip District Council planning officers have also been invited, as have members of Frome Civic Society, so their should be a wealth of knowledge available. Audience members will be able to ask questions and to express their opinions.”
A new blog, has been set up as a forum for the issue.
The site says, “We believe that a large hypermarket on the scale of a TESCO Extra (the size of store that many blame for the decline of Shepton Mallet’s High St) would have a significant negative impact on independent local shops and the character of Frome.
“If you are concerned about this prospect and the many other issues associated with a giant supermarket arriving in the heart of our town you can act early rather than waiting for a fully formed planning application.”
Mendip District Council has been looking to bring a comprehensive development on the Saxonvale site for a number of years, and the developers have been in initial discussions with retailers and supermarkets to create a retail-led mixed use scheme.