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Saxonvale plans revealed to people of Frome

The new square.

The new square.

PLANS for the Saxonvale site have been revealed, with initial opinion in the town being divided on the proposals. 

Developer Frontier Estates has announced plans for a supermarket, shops for new retailers and a new public square. The company will be submitting a planning application in October.

The proposed supermarket will have approximately 25,000 sq ft of retail floorspace, with 85%-90% of the shop floor dedicated to food (this compares to Asda in Warminster Road, which has approximately 30,000 sq ft of retail floorspace). The total size of the Saxonvale supermarket building (the ‘gross internal area’) is 48,000 sq ft (compared to 62,000 sq ft at Asda) with developers emphasising that the facilities in the building – such as lifts and the atrium – serve the whole development.

The new retail shops would provide approximately 30,000 sq ft of new shop space.

Frontier Estates says, “The redevelopment of Saxonvale represents the first major regeneration in Frome for a generation. The proposals are an opportunity to enhance the vitality of the eastern part of town, whilst strengthening the town centre offer and generating approximately 300 new jobs.

“By providing a new medium sized supermarket, shoppers will be attracted back to Frome town centre, benefiting Frome town centre traders.

“The proposed new high street shops will add to the overall Frome offer, again drawing people back. The high street shops are designed to complement the existing independent offer in Frome; creating an attractive retailing experience which is both enjoyable and practical.”

Campaign group Frome For All say the plans are a “positive opportunity,” and that it is “pleased and reassured by the outline plans.” It says that the development of a new town centre supermarket and a range of other shops could deliver significant benefits such as free parking, increased footfall and hundreds more jobs in the town centre.

But John Peverley, a member of the Frome and District Civic Society, says the supermarket is too big, the layout of the site is ‘very poor,’ and plans ‘very different’ to the Mendip District Council Development brief for the site. He says people should push for a better proposal.

Campaign group Keep Frome Local, which was set up two years ago to oppose the prospect of a big supermarket, is holding a public meeting this Wednesday (25th September, 7.30pm, Cheese and Grain) to hear the reactions of local people. John Harris, of the group explained, “In the wake of Frontier’s presentations, some of the most vocal contributions online have been about whether the development will sit harmoniously with the town, how Frontier’s consultation will work, and the size of the supermarket they’ve proposed.  We expect all these issues to be discussed and debated when we host another open meeting this Wednesday.”

Frome For all welcomes plan for new shops and jobs at Saxonvale.

Frome For All, which campaigns for ‘a town centre that better meets the needs of all local people,’ has welcomed the release of further detail on the plans for major investment that could bring a range of new shops and hundreds of new jobs to Frome town centre. Speaking on behalf of Frome For All, Nick White said, “In principle we welcome the plans for major investment that will provide a range of new shops, hundreds of jobs in the heart of the town and a new town centre square.  We are pleased and reassured by the outline plans that have been put forward by Frontier.

“They have managed to put 80% of the parking underground, which will go a very long way to easing concerns from a number of residents at the prospect of car parking swallowing up much of the site.

“There are positive proposals for the building of a much needed hotel and the provision of commercial premises, providing other employment opportunities as well as the retail jobs.

“There is also a proposal for relocating the FETE adult education centre from its current temporary site to one of the refurbished Notts buildings.

“Frontier have also offered reassurances that when more detailed plans come forward that they will be sympathetic to the history, landscape and layout of the town.  Building materials will reflect what has been used before so that the development will blend in and complement the existing town centre in a way that some previous town centre developments have not.

“There are also plans to improve pedestrian access from the existing town centre by the use of “shared space” along King Street and Church Street.

“Frontier also intend to make use of the springs that we have in the town to have water flowing through the development, in an attractive and creative way.

“We will be discussing these plans further with the developer to help ensure the best possible scheme for the people of Frome.

“Our aim is to ensure that local people are able to do as much of their shopping as possible in their own town centre and reduce the need to travel elsewhere.”

Fellow Frome For All campaigner Jackie Adams added,“We are pleased that after many years of waiting, plans are at last being revealed for Frome’s first town centre development for 40 years.

“Our group has always been about keeping Frome people shopping locally and that is one of the key things we want this development to achieve.

“We believe that there are very important social, community, economic and environmental benefits of bringing shoppers back to the town centre.

“Frome’s current heavy reliance on out of town stores and shopping trips to other towns is not good for local people, the environment or for our existing town centre retailers.

“We see this as a positive opportunity.  A development of a new town centre supermarket and a range of other shops could deliver significant benefits such as free parking, increased footfall and hundreds more jobs in the town centre.

“To help local people consider the plans for Saxonvale Frome For All is offering all local people a free copy of its new leaflet which is  titled ‘Time For Positive Change’   This can be requested via the group website or by phoning or texting 07714 460801.”

A ‘huge supermarket’ is the ‘worst possible kind of development for Frome’

However, John Peverley, who is a member of the Frome and District Civic Society, says, “Frontier Estates say that their proposal for the development of Saxonvale includes a 25,000sq ft supermarket, but the actual size of the building shown on their plan measures about 60,000sq ft! This is far larger than the Asda supermarket at Wallbridge, which Frontier Estates say is 30,000sq ft. A huge supermarket of this size in the middle of Saxonvale will be the worst possible kind of development for Frome and the character of Frome will suffer. The town centre may need a supermarket, but it doesn’t need one as big as this.

“Mendip District Council’s draft Local Plan says that what Frome town centre needs is a 15,000sq ft supermarket, so why have Frontier Estates gone deliberately against these recommendations? They are not respecting the draft Local Plan which is the result of public consultation, twice in recent years.

“Frontier Estates’ design for the layout of the shops, public square and supermarket is very poor. The public spaces created are mean and narrow, and the proposed public square at end of the Kingsway Parade is tiny by comparison with the square in the plans prepared by Terramond a few years ago. Frome deserves better public spaces than Frontier Estates is prepared to give. Good public spaces are essential.

“Frontier Estates say they are going to submit an outline application for their proposals by 18th October. This suggests that they have no real intention to amend their scheme or listen to local opinion. Their two brief sessions of public consultation are really a tick box exercise so that they can say they have consulted.

“A few years ago, Mendip District Council and the four landowners of Saxonvale adopted an excellent development brief for the site after very lengthy public consultation. Now Frontier Estates have produced a very different proposal, with minimal consultation, and no real opportunity to improve the scheme before their planning application is made. Frome deserves better treatment than this.

“An “outline application” may sound as if there is plenty of opportunity to improve the scheme in the future, but in the cold light of reality, if the outline application is approved, Frontier Estates will have achieved 90% of what they want and won’t have to take much notice of pleas to create a scheme of higher quality.

“The Saxonvale site is surrounded on three sides by the Frome Conservation Area and is close to listed buildings. Because of this, Mendip District Council should not accept an outline application, but insist on a full application and more public consultation. The special character of Frome deserves more sensitive treatment by developers.

“The adopted development brief required the preparation of a comprehensive plan for the whole of the Saxonvale site, so that costs of infrastructure, roads , traffic, parking, public spaces, parks and land reclamation could be shared between the four landowners of the site. Frontier Estatesʼs planning application only covers that part of the site owned by Notts Industries and the district council, so this means that these crucial issues cannot be properly addressed.

“There is a very real danger, that after years of inaction on the Saxonvale site, many people, including councillors, will welcome a proposal, however poorly conceived, to develop the area, rather than pushing for a better quality scheme that fits with the character of Frome.

“The adopted development brief, which was accepted by all the landowners following lengthy public consultation, should still be the benchmark against which any new proposal is judged, and against this benchmark, Frontier Estatesʼs proposals are just not good enough. Frome deserves better.”