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Campaign victory as Saxonvale scheme is binned

THE future of Saxonvale has been blown wide open once again after a controversial planning application was withdrawn the night before it was due to be decided by Mendip District Council.

Campaigners opposed to the scheme are celebrating at the news that the developers, Frontier Estates Ltd of Milton Keynes, pulled the plug on the plans just 24 hours before it was to be discussed by Mendip councillors.

Frontier’s plan for a supermarket and retail park on the land at Garsdale was first submitted in 2013. It was objected to by a number of local groups and attracted hundreds of comments during consultation.

Frome Town Council, Frome Chamber of Commerce and Keep Frome Local, were amongst the organisations objecting, as well as Mendip District Council’s own planning officer.

Chair of Frome Town Council’s town centre panel, councillor Mel Usher said, “This is really good news and well done to all those people who actively campaigned against this ill thought through proposal.  A special mention for Katy Duke who has put many hours of work into the background of the scheme.

“We are now moving forward Plan B which is to get all of the landowners and main players together to try to find a unique solution that suits Frome.  We are moving fast on this.  The first meeting was in December and a series of meetings are planned for early January.”

There was a strong local opposition to the scheme, and amongst the concerns expressed were the impact of such a large store on the character and appearance of the area, the impact of noise and traffic on local residents, and the lack of provision for business workspace.

Keep Frome Local had campaigned against the plan from the start.

Group organiser John Harris said, “This is great news. This was an out-of-date proposal, which the decline of the big supermarkets suggested was never going to happen anyway. If it ever came to fruition, it would have caused big traffic problems, severely damaged the town’s natural environment, and had a dire effect on businesses in our thriving town centre.

Great victory

“This is a great victory for all the people who expressed concerns about the Frontier plan, as well as the organisations who have done such brilliant work in channelling the town’s opposition. It once again proves what a vibrant, distinctive town this is.”

Keep Frome Local had recently drawn up a document titled ‘Frome deserves better’, outlining the shortcomings of Frontier’s proposals, which was endorsed by Frome Town Council, the town’s Chamber Of Commerce, Frome Civic Society and Friends of the River Frome.

Wrong for Frome

The group’s Katy Duke, who has done extensive research and campaigned against Frontier’s development said, “After five years of campaigning this is a great result; we won!  Keep Frome Local helped everyone to understand why it was the wrong development for Frome and put together amazing leaflets, posters, a website, manned stalls, created public protest meetings and much more.

“Now we can get on with a community-led regeneration scheme, and Frome may at last get the mixed development it deserves.

“The town council now plan to work closely with landowners and the district council to see if the years of log jam can be unblocked. 2016 should be a good year for Saxonvale.”

At the time of going to press, Frontier Estates had not responded to Frome Times’ request for a comment.

Not all responses to the withdrawal were positive, and some were concerned that the continuing failure to decide on the site is putting it at risk of being used for housing.

A spokesperson for town centre campaign group Frome For All said, “The Frontier development would have brought around 300 new jobs to Frome town centre.

“Frome has needed and been promised a significant town centre development for over 25 years.  Unfortunately it has not been delivered.  As a result most shopping by local people is done in out of town supermarkets and other towns.

“We want a town centre that better meets the needs of all local people and thereby significantly reduces the need to travel out of town for shopping or for other purposes.

“Some people are celebrating, but we are left with no town centre development and a large decaying and derelict site in our town centre.   It is the last chance to develop the town centre so it better meets the needs of local people, but there is now a serious risk that it will predominantly become just another modern housing development.”

New housing application

Frontier’s application was the third one to fail to deliver at the site in the past two years, after two applications for housing were rejected by Mendip District Council.

Earlier in December, developers McCarthy & Stone and Terramond, which have both had applications refused, announced that they had joined forces to prepare a third plan scheme composed of  retirement living apartments, a care home and open market homes and apartments.

A public consultation was held at Rook Lane Chapel on Tuesday 15th December.

Huw Thomas, director of Terramond said, “We are excited to bring these improved proposals forward for the people of Frome. This brownfield site is in clear need of regeneration and these new plans would introduce new housing which would help meet an identified and growing need in the area.”