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Mendip vs Frome parking row


The row follows the closure of a car park during Jenson's historic visit.

The row follows the closure of a car park during Jenson’s historic visit.

A ROW has broken out about the amount which Frome Town Council should pay to Mendip District Council for the closure of a town car park when Jenson Button made his spectacular drive through the town in December.

Jenson coming home to Frome was a highlight for many residents and also for the town itself as tourism and awareness of Frome was boosted.

However, the two councils are now in dispute over loss of car parking revenue.

Before the memorable event Mendip District Council informed Frome Town Council that if they were to lose out from car parking fees at Market Yard car park – which was closed when Jensen was in town – Frome Town Council would have to repay their loss. This was agreed by town councillors.

Independent councillor Peter Macfadyen said, “Mendip have asked for £1,337.  Frome, however, queried this based on the knowledge that the Fridays’ incomes each side of the event were £744 and £779, and so offered £750 – which was rejected.

“The reason for the rejection was given as ‘….These are average days in the car park and therefore not comparable with a day when there was a large event taking place which would have increased car park usage….’

“This really is diabolical.  In many ways it could be argued that Mendip should have significantly contributed to an event with a strong tourism and business focus – areas they already tax the people of Frome to cover. Instead, they miss the opportunity to be part of the party and raise their own profile, refuse to waive fees and then charge Frome nearly twice what they should, based on what they might have had from the event we paid for!

“To rub salt in the wound, Mendip made an extra £1,700 from car park fees paid unnecessarily during the free Christmas period largely because they again failed to properly advertise this. Instead of balancing this gain with the dubious loss, they regard this extra income as their good fortune.”

“This is one of an increasing number of cases where Mendip seem to have moved from inefficiency to outright hostility. We’ve tried every kind of diplomacy and pleasantry we know, but personally I now feel Frome taxpayers have a right to know the extent to which projects are being held up and where they are being unfairly charged. In the case of this car park fee, my own feeling is that we should let Mendip take us to court if they feel so strongly that their continued exploitation is justified.”

A statement from Mendip District Council said, “Frome Town Council were made aware of the charge for the use of the Cattle Market car park before the event took place so had opportunities to raise any issues with the cost prior to the evening. The amount of the invoice is based on each of the pay and display spaces at Cattle Market car park being occupied for a full day on the date of the event. If a car park or part of a car park is booked for an event it is standard procedure to charge the organisers for the number of spaces they wish to occupy and the length of time, in this case it was the whole car park for a day. Mendip District Council did however offer a 25% discount to offset that not all of these spaces would have been filled on an average day.

“Mendip District Council supported the event and provided officers’ time free of charge to the town council to help with the organisation and smooth running of the evening. Additionally, the council provided free spaces in North Parade car park for the temporary taxi rank and Cork Street car park for disabled parking.”

Independent councillor Mel User said, “I am sure Mendip are trying their best to balance the books but there are sensible ways of achieving this and there are ways which must seem bonkers to the ordinary woman or man in Badcox.

“This is one of those absurd decisions, one public body charging another without any benefit for the people of Frome. There have been others; as the freeholders of the Cheese and Grain, Mendip are charging the town council in excess of £5,000 for pumping half a million pounds into improving what will eventually be their asset.

“I try not to say too much in these circumstances, it all seems a little petty, but sometimes you come to the end of your tether.

“Mendip and the town council are locked in a surreal not always comfortable relationship, a bit like TV icons Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. Decisions like this make working together difficult.

“However its not always fruitful to rile the district council too much, after all the community of Frome is dependent upon Mendip making the right decisions about Saxonvale and the transfer of the Boyles Cross (hopefully for free) so we can start work on improving the town centre.

“So let’s hope for an amicable solution and may sense prevail.”