EASTHILL in Frome is one of the sites in Mendip that has been earmarked for social housing – but residents believe it would be a “tragedy” to lose this green space.
The plan for this Open Area of Local Significance (OALS) site, with a wealth of endangered species and mature trees, has caused outrage among people in Frome.
The scheme to provide 160 affordable houses across five council-owned sites was backed by members of Mendip District Council’s (MDC) Cabinet at a meeting on November 2.
Subject to planning permission, four sites were transferred to a housing association to build affordable and social rent homes.
And an OALS policy does not prevent a planning application being submitted.
An MDC spokesperson said: “An OALS policy does not prevent a planning application being submitted.
“Every planning application is determined on its merits. It is an understood consideration, but not the only consideration.”
The four sites are Cemetery Lane and Cranhill Road car park in Street, Norbins Road car park in Glastonbury, and Easthill in Frome.
North Parade car park in Frome is also being considered for highly sustainable, modular housing.
Many residents in Frome are unhappy about the plans to develop the Easthill site.
Bharati Pardhy, a resident of Easthill who overlooks the site, said: “It would be an utter tragedy to lose this beautiful place.
“We’ve found comfort in nature during the lockdown. Easthill is just so beautiful and it gives so much nourishment to people.
“When people bury their loved ones in the cemetery, they look up to see this beautiful view.
“It is beautiful and it encourages us to feel and think the best about the world.”
Jackie Simpson, who also lives in Frome, believes there are other sites that would be more suitable for the development.
“I don’t understand why they have chosen this site, when Frome has two brown field sites that aren’t being used,” she added.
“We are annoyed about the environmental impact of this. We are concerned about the habits for the wildlife and the trees. We are concerned we are losing our wildlife.
“Selwood Community Garden is a big enough site for the social housing so I don’t understand why they have to look at this site with wildlife designation.
“Soon, Frome will have lost all its green spaces.”
But the reason for the development is an urgent need for social housing in Mendip.
MDC have said around 5,000 people are registered for social housing and demand is rising.
Cllr Liz Leyshon, Portfolio Holder for Corporate Services and Projects, said: “Demand for social rent is up five percent in the past five months.
“That is expected to rise dramatically as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are prolonged, and Government interventions and economic assistance, fall away.
“It is essential that the council steps forward to meet demand. Everyone has the right to a home.”
A member of the public mentioned their concerns about the Easthill development at an MDC Full Council meeting on November 9.
They said: “I’d like to speak quickly about Easthill. I’d like to point out that we are in a lockdown situation and it feels a bit ill-timed.
“I cannot understand why there has been very little public awareness on this development. We feel some form of public consultation should have taken place.
“The site isn’t brownfield, it is a thriving haven on wildlife. These noise sources such as the railway will need looking at if the development is passed.
“I do recognise that affordable housing is a necessity but there are other sites you should investigate.
“I request you make the right decision before destroying this green space.”
Leader of MDC, Cllr Ros Wyke, defended the social housing plans and said the council has been “open about the project since day one”.
A public consultation will be available for all four sites, but this has been put on hold as the cabinet decision has been called-in and is set to go to the scrutiny committee.
MDC’s next scrutiny committee is on November 16. The planning applications for the sites, and therefore the public consultation, is on hold until after the meeting.
What can we expect for the developments at each site?
- Easthill, Frome – 77 homes: half at social rent and half as shared ownership.
- Norbins Road car park, Glastonbury – six social rent homes.
- Cemetery Lane, Street – 33 homes, half social rent, half shared ownership on land adjoining the cemetery.
- Cranhill Road car park, Street – 29 homes on western side (eastern side to remain as a car park – the bit that connects to the high street).
- North Parade car park, Frome – modular pilot scheme, 12 to 17 homes possible at the rear part of the car park.