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Campaigners urge caution as plans for 1,700 houses are submitted

The planning application for Selwood Garden Community (SGC), which would bring 1,700 houses to the south of the town, has now been submitted to Mendip District Council. 

And the campaign group Stop SGC, is asking all Frome residents, Mendip District Council, and Frome Town Council to “look at the details and question the real impact” of the plans, urging them to remember that “once the fields in Little Keyford are gone, they are gone forever”. 

Amongst the plans for SGC, promises are made by the developer that there will be 510 affordable homes – 408 of which will be provided for social rent; a neighbourhood centre; a new primary school; employment land that will “create over 1,200 jobs”; and 30 hectares of parks. 

Developers also say that new bus services, sustainable construction techniques, and renewable energy generation will support Frome Town Council with its ambition for Frome to be carbon neutral by 2030. 

But campaign group, Stop SGC, has challenged the developers’ vision for SGC, suggesting that they have tried to “paint a rosy picture” of what SGC might look like – and have questioned their “empty promises”, remaining firm in their belief that the development is “unnecessary and unwelcome”. 

“We are fascinated, first of all, to see how the ‘masterplan’ for Selwood Garden Community appears to have changed so much since the original consultation,” said Stop SGC campaigners. “It causes us to wonder how the developers can be so cavalier with the promises they make and question the likelihood of them following through on such impressive new targets as ‘408 social homes’ and ‘new habitat and biodiversity areas’.  

“We find it especially concerning the claims that the build will “assist Frome Town Council in meeting objectives aimed at addressing the declared climate change emergency” when simply not building 1,700 houses on a greenfield site would be far more beneficial in achieving this end.  

“We question the concept of ‘Garden Community Principles’ as there is to our knowledge, no such thing. We also reject the suggestion that a build of this magnitude is necessary to address Frome’s grave housing crisis, since sites such as Saxonvale in the town centre could yield plenty of homes for families in need.  

“The use of such glossy phrasing as ‘sustainable construction techniques’ and ‘renewable energy generation’ without the assurance of legally binding obligations, or even specific details does nothing to reassure us that the carbon footprint of such a massive development will be alleviated or that the houses built will not need to be retrofitted in five years (effectively obliterating whatever mitigations are achieved).  

“We would urge Frome residents to look beyond the sleek presentation and empty promises. The backers of SGC will not actually be responsible for delivering what has been set out in today’s (20th July) press release. So, who will?  

“Whilst the land developer has tried to paint a rosy picture of what SGC might look like, there is no guarantee that it will. What is clear is that building on green fields on this huge scale is both unnecessary and unwelcome.  

“We urge everyone – including Mendip District Council and Frome Town Council – to look at the details and question the real impact. Once the fields in Little Keyford are gone, they are gone forever.” 

The developers’ press release said, “This is an exciting project that will enable sustainable growth of the town over the next 10 years or more. It will provide a steady supply of about 130 new homes per year, 1,700 in total. The scheme will also provide employment land that will create over 1,200 jobs, a neighbourhood centre including a new primary school, extend the town’s river valley park all the way from Wallbridge to Blatchbridge and contribute to much-needed new infrastructure in the town. The design strategy is based on Garden Community principles.  

“Frome has suffered acute house price inflation which adversely affects families and young people. The scheme will provide a wide range of house types including family homes, apartments and bungalows suitable for older generations, self-build plots, low carbon dwellings and most importantly 510 affordable homes, 408 of which will be provided for social rent, of which there is a real shortage at the moment. There are 520 households looking for affordable housing in Frome at the moment and this is forecast to increase by about 100 households per year.  

“The neighbourhood layouts are based on Frome examples such as the Bartons, the compact terraces in the Trinity area and the town centre.  

“Green space and nature is provided throughout the scheme. Hedges and trees are incorporated into the neighbourhood designs and drainage across the site contributes to new habitat and biodiversity areas. The loss of hedgerows and trees has been minimised but where such loss is unavoidable, they are replaced on a 1:1.5 ratio and the scheme will deliver 1,000s of new trees. The scheme provides 30 hectares of parks which will provide a wide range of recreational and sports pitches. The creation of the river Frome park enables flood alleviation works to reduce the risk of flooding at Wallbridge.  

“The scheme takes a new approach to movement around the town, prioritising walking, cycling and buses over cars.  

“The scheme has been in development for four years. A team led by Grass Roots Planning on behalf of Land Value Alliances (LVA) and the landowner consortium has been working with all the councils and the local organisations to ensure the scheme provides a comprehensive plan for southern Frome and includes all the necessary supporting infrastructure to benefit existing and new residents alike. This is a proposal that is properly planned and is funded in a sensible phased way.  

“There will be extensive consultation and engagement throughout the determination process, and we look forward to working with the council and stakeholders to ensure that the significant benefits this scheme can deliver are fully realised.  

“If you have any queries regarding the development, or would like to learn more about it please contact enquires@grassroots-planning.co.uk.” 

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