Rival Frome town centre regeneration plans face big battle

The Saxonvale site in Frome in early-2021
The Saxonvale site in Frome in early-2021 -Credit:Mayday Saxonvale

The fate of two rivalling plans to regenerate Frome town centre will be decided by Somerset Council by the end of the summer. The Saxonvale site in Frome town centre has seen the subject of two competing proposals for its regeneration - one from the Bristol-based Acorn Property Group, the other from the locally-based Mayday Saxonvale.

Somerset Council (which owns the site) indicated in early-January that it would be looking to sell off the land as part of a wider review of its land, buildings and property portfolio, intended to balance its budget and provide funding for front-line services. Since this announcement, Acorn has put forward amended proposals to redevelop the site and rumours have circulated on social media that Mayday Saxonvale had already made a cash offer to buy the site - rumours which the council subsequently debunked.

A senior councillor has now confirmed that both visions for the site are currently being assessed, with a final decision being taken by the end of the summer. The Saxonvale site lies in the heart of Frome town centre, being bordered by the River Frome to the north, the Merchant's Barton car park to the west, the existing properties on Vicarage Street to the south and the town's Lidl store to the east.

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The 12-acre site is currently sealed off to the public, but has road access leading into it from two sides: Garsdale to the east and Saxonvale itself to the west (near the Silk Mill Studios). Saxonvale was purchased by Mendip District Council in 2018 and is allocated within the Mendip Local Plan Part II to deliver a minimum of 250 homes along with commercial space and additional town centre car parking.

Councillor Ros Wyke, portfolio holder for economic development, planning and assets, provided an update at a recent full council meeting in Bridgwater. She said: "Following a judicial review judgement which ruled against the former Mendip District Council planning approval of a proposed development by Acorn Group in October 2023, officers from our strategic asset management team have been working with external advisers and Frome Town Council to review options for the development of this long-derelict site in the centre of Frome.

"Proposals from two potential developers (Acorn Group and Mayday Saxonvale) will be evaluated against other options. Subject to the resolution of outstanding planning matters and viability/ funding appraisals by both potential developers - and the impact of any pre-election period - a decision on a preferred option for the site is anticipated in the summer of 2024."

Ms Wyke previously served as leader of Mendip District Council between 2019 and its abolition in April 2023, overseeing the clearing of the Saxonvale site using £3m from Homes England. She added "Councillors will be aware that this is a very sensitive, emotionally-charged site; all parties are working alongside community representatives to try to make progress.

"The worst possible outcome for the site would be for it to be left undeveloped for years to come."