Sunday, 11 March 2012

We're back! A report on Saxonvale Question Time

If you were unable to attend the Frome Question Time on Wednesday evening, we thought that you might like to know what happened at the event – and the surprising development announced.
John Harris spoke on behalf of KFL with his usual clarity and conviction.  He articulated again why we feel that a large supermarket on the Saxonvale site would adversely affect the rest of the town, and that the site should be developed in accordance with the Mendip Planning Brief. 

Also on the panel were representatives from the Civic Society, the Chamber of Commerce, Frome For All and the Town Council.  John admirably held his own and the debate was lively, at times noisy, and always passionate, which seems to indicate just how much residents enjoy our town. One theme which did emerge and on which all seemed to agree, was a desire to increase footfall into the town centre through a sympathetic re-development of Saxonvale and help our independent shops and businesses thrive. How to achieve this sharply divided the panel and audience. 

Then, in the final minutes of the debate there came an announcement which had many of us stunned. In the audience there was a representative from Frontier Estates, a property developer which had signed a contract with Notts Industries at 6pm that evening. We gleaned little about Frontier’s plans from what the representative said.  It is a diverse developer with business including retail, offices, hotels.  Those who check out Frontier’s website will quickly notice that Tesco is one of its featured clients.  It’s rather too early too say whether this developer’s appointment heralds better news for the town.  See Frome People for further information on Frontier and its selected consultants. There's also an interview with Frontier Estates Development Director Damian Wood on Frome TV's website.

KFL will continue to monitor events, updating you whenever possible, and as soon as we have more information on what Frontier Estates have planned will inform you and make sure everyone is aware of any consultation that may occur.

If you would like to make any comments about these and other events, have any ideas about the campaign, or would like to give us feedback about the value, or not, of these newsletters, then please post them below!


  1. I attended the slightly bizarre meeting last week and am truly puzzled by the lack of a clarity and positive information about who is making these decisions and how anyone can influence them. I think that the only clear message was that everyone seemed to think the planning brief was a good thing.
    Re the supermarket question - there are a limited number of candidates for this site given we already have Asda and Sainsbury's in Frome. If we want something different, then neither Tesco nor Morrison's will provide true difference - just another supermarket to drive to. Waitrose would perhaps be more compatible with some of the Frome requirements as they are more about food and less about competing with other shops in the town. Frontier have worked with them before but given Waitrose is about to open in Warminster, they may not feel they want another site so close until they get some sales information under their belts.
    A larger M & S might be what some would like as there is little choice in clothing in the town and again they would not compete so aggressively with the smaller shops. They are more likely to encourage browsing in the rest of the town especially at weekends and it is certainly likely to encourage more business in Frome as the alternative is a trip to Bath.
    What did puzzle me a little is that there doesn't seem (and this is only based on the meeting)to be a big drive to try alternatives to improve business in Frome. Sunday opening, for example, might mean that the people walking around the town on Sunday would have shops to go into rather than just looking in the windows. If a large retailer does open in Saxonvale then you can be sure they will be open on Sundays as most of the supermarkets report that Sunday trading is a substantial percentage of their weekly trade. This is the time of the week when families can make choices together about homewares, holidays and many other things as well as being able to do their 'big shop' for the week. This is one of the reasons that so much is sold on the internet at weekends. It might be that some businesses would be able to build Sunday business over time, especially if there were the restaurants and cafes open to support them.
    Re access to the Saxonvale site: I am not clear from the planning brief where it is that all of the delivery lorries and customer cars will be expected to enter and exit the development. If it is via the roundabout at Garston, it would seem to be a good reason to sell up in Portway! If it is intended to allow access through the town centre then that mixed with pedestrians trying to cross the road could be a recipe for a lot of stationary cars and angry drivers as well as just spoiling further the already busy town centre. If the parking on Saxonvale is planned to be free then what will Mendip do about the lost revenue from the paid carparks by Westway and the market? If parking on Saxonvale is going to be paid then I suspect that unless the anchor store is really different, customers who are already in their cars will go to Asda or Sainsbury's where they can park for free, shop at their own speed and also buy fuel at cheap prices.
    Does anyone have any information about which retailers (other than Tesco)have shown any interest in the site or is that still guesswork?

  2. Any development based on a supermarket and retail is a lazy option. It will only benefit the supermarket, the developers and the local authority who want to tick a development box. none of them are motivated to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity to put something unique and splendid in this wonderful town centre. Supermarkets and chain stores destroy local jobs replacing them with part time, zero-hour, low skill work. The profits made by the supermarket and other major retailers will be sucked out of the local community and into the city of London and abroad. All the evidence shows that independent local businesses WILL be put out of business - will it be yours? Or one that you value?

    For the town's sake, do all you can to resist this irreversible step into mediocrity. From has resisted the 'High Street UK' look and only has a handful of chain stores. That is part of what makes it so special. Support Keep Frome Local and others campaigning against a supermarket driven development. Supporters of such a development will say it is the only way to develop this site. This may be true today, but it will not always be that way. There is plenty of time, and lots to lose by making the wrong, easy, lazy decision. If it is a supermarket or nothing, then go for nothing. Frome deserves better.