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“Frome deserves better” on Saxonvale site

“We want to see the Saxonvale site developed, but the proposed plans by Frontier developments of Milton Keynes are not special enough for Frome” – this was the message from the town council’s Saxonvale meeting which was held in the Assembly Rooms last week.

Town councillors voted to recommend refusal of the application and said they hoped that Mendip District Council take on board views of local people and the level of consultation which had been held over the proposals.

Around 100 members of the public attended the Saxonvale meeting which was held on 23rd January. The meeting provided the last opportunity for the people of Frome to feedback directly to the councilors at Frome Town Council on their personal opinions regarding the potential development of the Saxonvale site as proposed by Frontier developments.

The town centre campaign group Keep Frome Local (KFL) also hosted a second packed and enthusiastic public meeting last week, opposing the proposals for the Saxonvale site. See story below.

A second community group, Frome For All, has expressed disappointment that Frome Town Council has come out against the Frontier plans. See story on page 19.

Prior to the town council, meeting several hundred questionnaires had been completed across the town and numerous emails have been sent into the planning team at Mendip whereby the residents of Frome have lodged their thoughts, guidance and considerations in the assessment of this proposed build for Frome.

The team at Frome Town Council had the difficult job of collating this information and assessing the overall mood of the town before formulating their response as a consultee on the project.

The council says there is no doubt that this development reflects the biggest and most exciting opportunity Frome has seen in several years and the careful consideration of the project is no small undertaking.

Paul Wynne, town clerk said, “I’d like to thank the 464 local people who took part in the council’s survey on this topic and the 100 or so people who attended the public round table meeting at the Assembly Rooms which was well received.

“The survey results have been sent to Mendip District Council, along with the council’s decision and placed on our Facebook page where the views from the public meeting last night will also be posted.“

The meeting was well attended and the overall feel was that the people of Frome were incredibly keen to see the site at Saxonvale developed, but the proposed design by Frontier did not reflect the type of development desired. 

It was suggested several times that a town as unique and beautiful as Frome should have a development that reflected its special character and that a major issue with the proposed Frontier development was that it seemed like a carbon copy of a development which could be found in any town in England, lacking imagination, local relevance or design flair.

Paul Wynne confirmed, “One of the clear messages from last night was that whilst the town council wants to see Saxonvale developed, it doesn’t want to see development at any price and the quality of the outline scheme just didn’t live up to expectations. A common point made throughout the evening was that Frome deserves better.”

It was noted that the site did not propose a mix-purpose development, incorporating any leisure facilities, nor address any suggestions within the Neighbourhood Plan.  The vast majority voted against the plans.

Paul Wynne said, “The council felt that the decision to recommend refusal of the Frontier application was the right thing to do.  They hope that Mendip will take this objection seriously given the level of community engagement and the attention to detail by officers in their report to councillors”

Round table discussion then took place addressing creative ideas for any new proposed site at Saxonvale. There is clearly a thirst for a mixed-use development, incorporating clothing retailers, cafes, leisure services, green space and community focused areas. It was also suggested that “we have a wonderful opportunity to do something amazing with the development, something environmentally groundbreaking and architecturally inspiring, why jump at the first development offered? Let’s do something that will put Frome on the map.”

It became clear at the meeting that the Homes & Communities Agency have approved funding to enable the Carley Development Trust, a new community interest company to bring together landowners and developers to explore how a comprehensive scheme for Saxonvale could be developed.  The funding, which is subject to ratification by the Government, would enable the preparation of a Community Right To Build Order on which the community would ultimately decide through a local referendum.