Frome resident challenges council to change its mind over Saxonvale plans

By Susie Watkins

24th Dec 2021 | Local News

A Frome resident has challenged district councillors to change their minds over proposals to regenerate a key town centre site.

Mendip District Council is currently pushing forward with regenerating the Saxonvale site, having approved plans put forward by the Acorn Property Group for a second time by the planning board in mid-September.

Since this meeting, alternative plans for the site – with a smaller number of homes, a relocated school and public lido – have been formally submitted by the Mayday Saxonvale scheme to the council for a decision.

Now resident Tim Cutting used the last full council meeting of the year to make an impassioned plea to councillors to change their views and allow the more popular Mayday Saxonvale scheme to move forward.

Speaking on Monday evening (December 20), he said: "Your primary duty as councillors is to represent the people of your wards and communities.

"As representatives of the Frome community, you have a huge decision at the moment in the regeneration of the town centre at the Saxonvale site.

"You have an opportunity to dramatically improve the town centre for residents of both the town and the surrounding area of Mendip.

"The Mendip/ Acorn plan was universally rejected by the town, while Mayday Saxonvale is putting forward a proposal which is seen in the community as far superior to your plan."

The Acorn proposals for the site entail the creation of 300 homes (of which 24 per cent will be affordable), along with up to 45,000 sq ft of commercial space, which will include purpose-built retail units, independent cafes and restaurants, and a co-working area.

The 'western warehouse' within the current site is expected to become an arts and heritage venue, with the council planning a bid to the government's levelling up fund to assist with the delivery.

By contrast, the Mayday Saxonvale plans involve a smaller number of homes (182 in total), along with offices and workshop space, a hotel and spa, and a music and performance space.

St John's Church of England First School will relocate to the northern side of Garsdale from its current base on the A362 Christchurch Street East, while a new lido will be built for year-round use near the River Frome.

Mr Cutting said he was disappointed that the current Liberal Democrat administration (which governs in a minority) had simply continued the proposals put forward by the previous Conservative administration, which lost power at the 2019 local elections.

He said: "We are familiar with commercial developers proposing schemes which benefit them far more than the community in which the scheme is to be built.

"Why did you decide to act as a conventional commercial developer, with profit to the council itself as the main consideration, and relegate your duty to act in the best interests of the people who elected you to a much lower level?

"How on Earth did you come to put profit before people?"

None of the councillors present at the meeting – including Councillor Damon Hooton, who chairs the council's planning board – provided Mr Cutting with an immediate response to his statement.

The council and Acorn are currently clearing the Saxonvale site for the first stage of redevelopment, using a £3.95M grant from Homes England which must be spent in full by December 31.

The earliest planning board meeting at which the Mayday Saxonvale application could be discussed is scheduled to take place on January 19, 2022; however, the council has not confirmed whether the application will be heard on this date.

     

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