Vision could give town life
I AM just catching up with my back issues of the Frome Standard after returning from a trip.
Before I went away the "unveiling" of the latest Saxonvale plans was imminent.
What do I find when I open my copies? Well, the usual KFL (translates as people recently arrived who want a pretty little backwater town to commute from) crowd coming out with their usual knock 'em back criticism.
Well, I am a newcomer (35 years now) not five minutes like some of these Johnny Come Lately critics, and then I came to a vibrant town centre. Two/three supermarkets, three butchers, two off-licences, and even a fresh fish shop. What has replaced them? Charity shops, hairdressers, pretty little gift shops.
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Give it a rest KFL and let Frome come alive again, for its future's sake.
Stourton View Frome
YOUR headline "Saxonvale vision fails to inspire positive response" was surely a foregone conclusion, considering the "nearly 200" people are more than likely supporters of the Keep Frome Local (KFL) campaign group.
So given that the majority of those attending objected to the development, doesn't come as a surprise. What other outcome would you have expected?
In the past I've attended a couple of these so-called "public meetings" organised by Keep Frome Local and have been appalled by their tone and lack of open debate.
As a group they are intimidating and anyone voicing an opinion or showing support for a Saxonvale development, including a 25,000sq ft supermarket in the centre of town, is verbally attacked and dismissed. You're either with them or against them, according to their leader. No wonder, these meetings only attract the anti-lobby.
This news piece doesn't reflect the reality or majority views of the people of Frome and it is worth noting that KFL represent a mere 0.8 per cent of the population and as such are not the spokespeople for Frome. As a group KFL is well organised, having brought its London village mentality to our country town. Thankfully the piece of non-news was pushed to page two.
When KFL engages with supporters of the Saxonvale development, Frontier and "local people" we may all achieve a development that pleases everyone.
THE PR exercise around the Saxonvale superstore development recently announced by Frontier Estates is misleading.
The developer's website claims five benefits:
1 "A medium-sized supermarket ... much smaller then was previously proposed". Wrong. Their plans show a huge unit about 60,000sq ft, the size of Asda, much larger than any previously proposed for Saxonvale. They now admit the unit is 48,000sq ft gross but still exclude the entrance and loading areas.
During their drop-in session they said the proposed supermarket was smaller than the extension to Asda which they claim is 30,000sqft. Wrong. The proposed Asda extension is smaller, 20,000sq ft.
They also claimed that the proportion of sales area proposed is normal and equivalent to Asda. Wrong again. Asda's sales area is 75 per cent of the store whereas Frontier indicate a sales area in less than half of the building. Once granted it would effectively be impossible to prevent the Saxonvale supermarket increasing in sales area to 40,000sq ft, selling non-food goods and damaging trade in the town centre.
2 "New connections from the site into the centre of town". There will be no direct pedestrian links to the town centre and no relief for Vicarage Street, contrary to a core policy in the new Local Plan that requires "a link road through the site provided at an early stage in the development. The development will make provision for pedestrian and cycle links between the various elements of the development, the town centre and the railway station, and across the River Frome". There are no cycle routes or pedestrian bridge proposed. Queuing cars and delivery lorries in Vicarage Street and Christchurch Street will increase barriers for pedestrians to the town centre and station.
3 "New shops to bring new retailers to the town". The superstore development does not rely on Mendip's land or the other retail units to be built. Once outline consent is obtained there is nothing to stop Notts from selling their site for the superstore. Unless Mendip District Council insists on a comprehensive development no new shops or hotel need be built.
4 "The generation of around 300 new jobs". No justification for this figure is given or the number of jobs lost elsewhere as a consequence. Mendip's local plan requires 65,000sqft of much needed office/studio space on the site which would provide more intensive local employment circulating money through the local economy. The giant superstore and car park squeezes out these more sustainable employment uses.
5 "New public squares". The public spaces created are limited to those necessary to access the retail facilities. A spokesman for Frontier said they don't believe large public spaces work. They've presumably not been to Frome on a Super-Market day. The space they call a public square, currently wooded, would be cleared and surrounded by parked cars rather than social activities which is essential for a successful town square. In the evenings the shopping centre and square will be dead.
The timing of the PR exercise and planning submission early in October have been orchestrated to give the appearance of consultation but in reality there is no time to adjust the proposals. Their consultation paper has loaded questions such as "Frontier's plans seek to invest in Frome's shopping offer and deliver up to 300 new jobs. Do you support this objective?" This does nothing to allay fears that this is a cynical and disingenuous precursor to their ill-considered planning application.
Thankfully the hundreds of residents packed into the Cheese and Grain last week unanimously confirmed that this wool-pulling exercise has not been entirely successful.
Chairman, Frome and District Civic Society