Council responds to Selwood Garden Community plans for Frome

A SUSTAINABLE 1,700-home development, complete with employment premises, a local centre and possibly a solar farm could be built in Frome if a ‘ground-breaking’ plan gets the go-ahead.

The Selwood Garden Community scheme aims to deliver ‘an innovative and sustainable community’ in the Frome Valley.

A planning application has not yet been submitted to Mendip District Council (MDC), as the Land Value Alliance (LVA) are still waiting on pre-application consultation comments from key stakeholders, including Frome Town Council (FTC).

FTC is in the process of responding and agreed to a report written by the council’s planning and development manager, Jane Llewellyn, at an extraordinary meeting of the council on Wednesday, October 28.

After an in-depth discussion about the proposals, the council asked Ms Llewellyn to include more detail in the report.

The report currently states the council will “work with developers to ensure the development benefits the town” but does not mean they support the proposals.

It adds that the approach to transport will need to be more “radical”, there should be adequate employment provision and the development should be built to the highest environmental standards.

During the meeting, many councillors explained they were concerned about traffic in Frome if the development goes ahead.

Cllr Paul Horton said: “With all the lovely drawings and words, it won’t necessarily be like that – we need to make sure the development goes ahead as envisioned.

“We need to be clear that the vision needs to be far, far better than it is.

“Promoters and landowners will make millions on this and we want some of this money to be spent to the benefit of the town.

“I think everyone is concerned about the impact of extra cars, this is a huge concern. However, the concern is driven by the culture of the country – the car culture is extremely damaging and a development like this is maybe a challenge to this culture.

“Can we demand from the architects that we don’t want a development that is going to increase traffic in Frome? And one that encourages an alternative way of living? We have to be very demanding.”

According to the Selwood Garden Community website, there will be a comprehensive networking of walking and cycling routes as well as estate roads, avenues and cul-de-sacs.

Cllr Scott Ward was also concerned about traffic – but liked the idea of green spaces and the promise of a school.

“I am part of an ongoing discussion about traffic and I think until these issues within Frome (are addressed), I don’t think adding to these is smart,” he said.

“I live on Culver Hill and we don’t have resources up this end of town, we have to travel quite far to see a dentist or a doctor.

“So the promise of a school and green spaces and parks sounds great but I don’t think we need 1,700 houses to go with it.

“Once LVA get planning, there is no guarantee that this will actually happen. There’s no substance to it at this point – it is pure fantasy and it is just not something that I can support.”

A few FTC councillors were torn and wanted to make sure the report reflected their concerns.

Cllr Anita Collier said: “I have a lot of concerns about the traffic and the infrastructure, but on the one hand we need to put forward our ideas about what we would like to see and we need to get involved in the early stages.

“The alternative is that we don’t say anything and we have no opportunity to shape or influence it.

“It is a really difficult dilemma, I don’t think it is clear cut at all.”

Cllr Richard Ackroyd added: “Frome has suffered greatly from the lack of joined up planning. I hear lots of complaints about new housing estates – public transport, play areas, developers needing to be reminded of the design.

“Promises are routinely broken. We have an opportunity here to change that. We want to move away from this.

“We need a masterplan that covers all the other planning applications. I think increasing the number of houses from 1,500 to 1,700 is a mistake – my main worry is the number of houses.

“As it stands I couldn’t vote for this.”

At the end of the meeting, councillors agreed to the report written by Ms Lewellyn, but asked that she added more detail from the conversation that evening before sending a formal response to LVA.

Once the pre-application consultation process is finished, the plans will then be sent to MDC for consideration.

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