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Give Frome back its building

Protestors outside the Public Offices in Christchurch Street West

Protestors outside the Public Offices in Christchurch Street West

Frome residents of all ages gathered on Friday (11th July) outside the Public Offices in Christchurch Street West, Frome, to protest against Somerset County Council.

The protest was part of a campaign called ‘Give Frome back its building’, which has been launched to reclaim the former county council social services offices for the town.

The assembled crowd, which ranged from children to grandparents, heard from campaign spokesman David Lassman and local author John Payne, who said the decision to sell back the building to the town council was ‘morally obnoxious.’

Somerset County Council is asking Frome Town Council to pay £325,000 for the building, but campaigners believe it should be returned for the same nominal fee the county council paid for it in 1974.

David Lassman spoke of the building’s history, from its construction in 1891, using Frome stone and local ratepayers’ money, up until 1974, when it was transferred to the newly-formed Somerset County Council without public consultation.

The protest had been organised quickly, according to David Lassman, saying, “We understand Somerset County Council is close to making a decision over the price and we wanted to make our voice heard. Today’s gathering is very much to show them the strength of feeling and sense of outrage felt by the people of Frome. Although it was short notice, I am very pleased with the turn-out.”

He also went on to tell the assembled Frome people, “At the same time, Frome Town Council has stated they want to turn the building into a community hub for voluntary and charitable groups. If Somerset County Council insists on selling it back, it has to be asked as to how many community organisations will suffer through not being able to afford the rents the town council will need to charge to repay the loan they intend to take out.

“Common sense must prevail. It was effectively given free of charge to Somerset County Council back in 1974 and now forty years on, it seems only right that the building is returned in the same way to the people of Frome and its community.”

“An online campaign Fromebackitsbuilding has now attracted more than 200 people and the letter-writing campaign to the leader of the council, John Osman, continues unabated.”

The peaceful protest lasted until 11.30am, during which time a large banner was unfurled in front of the building that read ‘Give Frome back its building!’