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SOMERSET COUNCIL: Saxonvale decision date

SOMERSET COUNCIL: Saxonvale decision date

The fate of a Somerset council’s flagship regeneration scheme will be decided in public at the end of the month.

Mendip District Council has been working with the Acorn Property Group to regenerate the Saxonvale brownfield site in Frome town centre through a mixture of housing, commercial outlets and shared public space.

The plans, submitted in May 2019, have been subject to several delays and have attracted negative feedback from local residents.

Now the developer has confirmed the fate of the plans will be decided by the council’s planning board when it meets virtually on the evening of January 28.

If approved, the development will deliver up to 300 new homes on council-owned land.

Up to 21 per cent of the new properties (the equivalent of 63 homes) will be affordable due to viability issues with bringing the long-empty site forward – and this could fall to 17.5 per cent (53 homes) if a £3.95M grant from Homes England is withdrawn.

Up to 45,000 sq ft of commercial space will be set aside, housing purpose-built retail units, independent cafes and restaurants, and a co-working area.

Acorn hopes that this section of the site – together with the ‘western warehouse’, which will become an arts and heritage centre – could create up to 350 new local jobs.

The site will also include a new riverside café and park with play equipment, open grassland near the River Frome, and a public square designed to host markets, entertainment events and sports competitions.

The site will be connected to the town centre via new pedestrian and cycle paths, with a new bridge linking it up to Rodden Meadow.

Acorn has been working with “world-renowned” sustainability charity Bioregional to ensure the development will be “a new sustainable neighbourhood for Frome”.

Robin Squire, managing director of Acorn’s Bristol region, said: “We have worked closely with the local community and planning authority to address any previous concerns raised, and are hopeful that the latest proposal will meet with their approval as we are looking forward to delivering this important town centre site for Frome.”

To encourage fossil fuel-free transport to and from the site, up to 17 electric vehicle charging points will be installed for communal use, as well as personal charging points for e-bikes and e-scooters.

Council leader Ros Wyke stated during a tour of the site in December 2019 that this would be “an exemplar site”, with the council wanting to “raise the bar in expectations of new development.”

Frome Town Council reiterated its objection to the plans in November 2020, arguing that the viability issues surrounding the site mean they “did not feel that the issues we have raised previously have been resolved.”

Frome Chamber of Commerce has also objected, stating a recent assessment of the site “does not address the issue of the amount employment space at all”.

The council’s planning board will meet virtually to make its decision on the Saxonvale plans on January 28 from 6pm. The meeting will be broadcast over the council’s website.

Words: Daniel Murphy, Local Democracy Reporter


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