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Our campaign in summary:
- Take Mendip District Council to court
- Stop the Acorn application
- Appoint developers in a fair, open and transparent manner
- Opportunities for Frome’s vibrant community, arts and business sectors
- Much more commercial provision for the town centre
Our legal case
Saxonvale is a significant brownfield site in the centre of Frome, Somerset, formerly an employment zone serving our 30,000 strong town.
Mayday Saxonvale is a campaign for judicial review—run by a group of concerned local people—of contracts made between Mendip District Council and Acorn Properties, the developer planning to turn this area of land into a housing development.
Frome is a wonderful place to live. Yet with such a large number of families relocating into the town, genuine expansion of the town centre which can offer the business & commercial opportunities is badly needed instead of Acorn's aggressively residential scheme.
We believe that the entire economic future of our town as well as its vibrant & thriving arts & community scene is imperilled by Acorn's planning application.
Frome has many large housing developments either underway or in the planning stage but lacking any new schools, civic infrastructure or quality mixed-use commercial space. The District Council is ignoring its own policies & Local Plan, acting purely out of self-interest by rail-roading the pre-application timetable & resisting many well-argued objections being put forward by consultees. The entire focus is on enhanced profits, maximising high density housing & ignoring a proper return in the public interest.
Why is this so important for our town?
Acorn's application would kill the goose that lays Frome's golden eggs; our entrepreneurial drive, independent retail shops, businesses & can-do attitude. With this gigantic development of railway shed apartment blocks dominating and monopolising land use in the central district, there is nowhere for varieties of commercial activity to expand & grow.
With a weakened masterplan & the Neighbourhood Plan largely untested, this legal action is our last line of defence. We must make it count or the Frome we know & love & are proud to live in & be a part of may not exist for much longer.
Covert decision making process
Early in 2018, the District Council decided to purchase the site at Saxonvale for £6.3m. Their main purpose was to introduce a model for the development capable of returning enhanced profits from each dwelling sold. There is no evidence of any formal valuation of the site having been done & the figure paid was £1.3m above the under-bidder; i.e. at least £1m of public funds wasted.
Acorn Properties was secretively appointed in a process hidden from all public scrutiny. An indiscriminate use of non-disclosure agreements has been used that local Councillors are required to sign before they can be briefed on the Council's intentions. Many are in fear of prosecution if they speak out. By this means, the public consultation has been suppressed & an unpopular and resisted scheme about to be imposed.
Why are we raising funds?
Our case file has been extensively reviewed by public procurement specialists who have concluded there is a clear case to answer. A judicial review is the only way for Frome to defend itself & re-run the tender process for the land in the fair, open & transparent way as required by law.
This judicial review action is being sought by The Silk Mill, an artists’ studio project within the red line of the development.
It is time for communities in the south-west to remind our local authorities what responsible & responsive development looks like. Join us, share in this exciting Saxonvale story, make the change & thank you for contributing!
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