Plans for Saxonvale site in Frome approved at council meeting

PLANS for up to 300 homes and commercial units on council-owned land in Frome have been approved.

The Saxonvale planning application, which was submitted in May 2019, was discussed at a Mendip District Council (MDC) meeting last night (January 28).

MDC’s planning board voted to approve the outline planning permission (subject to agreement of conditions with the developer) by 11 votes to 3. 

The main condition MDC decided was to negotiate the affordable housing on the site and take it up to 24 per cent – rather than the planned 22.5 per cent. 

MDC has been working with the Acorn Property Group to regenerate the Saxonvale brownfield site in Frome town centre.

READ MORE: Council set to decide on Saxonvale plans

The site is set to include housing, commercial outlets and shared public space to host markets, entertainment events and so on.

There were mixed views surrounding the site, particularly about social housing allocation, increase in traffic, commercial space and the number of houses.

Andy Jones, from Fair Housing for Frome said: “The developer is claiming a far lower rate of social housing is essential to maintain the viability of the development.

“This whole development should be about people who need decent homes that they can afford to live in.

“It needs to meet the needs of the town over the next few decades.”

Acorn Property Group have said 22.5 per cent of the homes will be social housing, with 47 of those as would be offered at social rent.

Cllr Michael Dunk added: “Is the affordable and social housing provision good enough? No I don’t think so.

“I would insist that 22.5 per cent splits back to 80:20 and I think it is a mistake to accept that offer.

“Clearly MDC would agree that Frome needs a substantial increase in affordable housing.”

Somerset County Gazette: Saxonvale development plans. Pic: Acorn Property GroupSaxonvale development plans. Pic: Acorn Property Group

However Cllr Laura Waters believes the site provides a good balance, despite the lack of social housing.

“This scheme may not be perfect but it is the best offering Frome has ever had for this site over the last 20/30 years,” she said.

“There has been plenty of time for further proposals and there hasn’t been any.

“This site seems to provide a good balance.

“I do think the apartment style housing does fit with the Frome housing need, a place like this would go a long way to fulfil the need.

“Some people don’t want a big garden but the site will offer green spaces where people can go.

“We can’t expect the plans to solve all of Frome’s issues – but it does go some way.”

Frome Town Council believes there is not enough employment space and social housing on the plans, but they would “welcome the opportunity to be involved”.

Many have said the plans are far from perfect – but they think something needs to be done with the derelict site, and this is a good idea.

Cllr Lucy Taylor-Hood added: “It is clear the site needs to be developed – it has been calling out for that for many years.

“In general, I am supportive of developing on brownfield sites – there is an acute housing need.

“I strongly support the development of this brownfield site after so many years of dereliction.”

Somerset County Gazette: Current Saxonvale site. Pic: Daniel MumbyCurrent Saxonvale site. Pic: Daniel Mumby

Cllr Drew Gardiner said he sees the site everyday when he leaves the office – and believes there is so much potential.

“People have managed to bring together all these separate parcels of land so something can come from it,” he added.

“I look at the site everyday, and I see potential and possibilities.

“Is it perfect? Absolutely not.

“I speak now, not as a councillor, but as somebody who is lucky enough to live in the town. I think the development of Saxonvale – warts and all – is a great development for the town.”

Somerset County Gazette | News