by adamboyden on 4 April, 2016
Please see below my newsletter for Frome College ward, Frome and Mendip. I hope you find it useful.
How can I help? Please get in touch if you have any issues you need help with.
Leisure Centre reopening delayed: As a member of Mendip District Council’s Leisure Strategic Board, last week I had a tour of the Frome Leisure Centre construction site with Mendip officers and other councillors, Fusion and their main contractors Pollards. Delays due to more asbestos being found initially, and new issues such as drainage, are delaying the opening until late Spring, according to Fusion’s latest statement. In a week or two, Fusion should know enough to be able to announce the actual reopening date. The swimming pool and plant are also being cleaned, to improve water quality. The resurfacing of the astroturf pitch should follow in summer 2017. There is a Fusion pop-up shop in the Westway precinct where they are signing up people for membership and the swim scheme. Please also see here for Fusion’s news, which includes a £200 discount voucher for members.
Frome Sports Forum: The new Frome Sports Forum was launched this week with a meeting at Frome Town Football Club on Monday chaired by town councillor Gary Collinson. This follows the recommendations of the FTC Sports and Leisure Panel, which were approved last December, and aims to help coordinate all sporting initiatives in Frome. A representative from Fusion, and several others from local sports clubs also attended. Issues included future improvements in sports facilities, including potential artificial pitches, the delays to the Leisure Centre opening and future improvements there, and a study to help identify gaps in provision. Also at the meeting, Stuart Collins of SASP (Somerset Active Sports Partnership) announced an opportunity for a funded ‘Sports Development Officer – Adult Participation’ part-time position in the Frome area – see here, or contact me or FTC’s Kate Hellard at FTC (Hellardk@frometowncouncil.gov.uk, 01373 475579) for details. Please see here for background info on the Panel’s actions.
Frome Sports Festival is on Sunday 10th April with free sports taster sessions and activities at Selwood Academy, Frome Town Football Club, Victoria Park and elsewhere – see http://www.fromestandard.co.uk/Frome-families-invited-Frome-Sports-Fest-April/story-28970565-detail/story.html for details.
Frome Independent Market: the massive monthly market in Frome returned with the first market of the year yesterday. What did you think, and how can things be made even better next month? Please let me know if you have any ideas.
Annual Frome Town Meeting: The Annual Frome Town Meeting will be held on Wednesday 6th April at 7pm at the Assembly Rooms. The agenda includes presentations on the Town Council’s ambitions, a public Question Time and civic awards.
Showfield improvements approved: As I had hoped, Frome Town Council have now approved the management and improvement plan for the Old Showfield at the Town Council meeting in late March (see here for FTC’s news). The approved plan includes improving footpaths all around the site, more benches, bins and trees (including in an orchard), a boundary hedge and temporary fence around the playground (to keep dogs away from children playing), new playground surfacing, and a large area of grass cut shorter for play and picnics, together with outdoor fitness equipment, and creation of wildflower meadows in the back fields. Funding has also been identified for future improvements to playground equipment, including for toddlers. The work will be phased, with path improvements the first priority. This follows the initial consultation in 2012, the work done to agree and progress the transfer to Frome Town Council in 2013-15 and the public meeting at the end of January. Update: Three new litter bins were installed at the old Showfield on Weds 13 April. Frome Standard this week had a timely story and editorial about litter at the cricket club/pavilion entrance being cleared up by 76 year old local resident Anthea Staines and her granddaughter, the lack of bins there, which FTC’s new bins should help address (although that entrance to the Old Showfield, the car park and pavilion are still owned by the Frome & District Agricultural Society, who still use Mendip DC’s contractors to clear litter). FTC’s management and improvement plan has also been announced by FTC and in the Frome Standard. FTC also tell me that the resurfacing of the footpaths around the site should take place in May, no doubt to many local residents’ relief.
Showfield playground repairs needed: Meanwhile, at the playground, the basket swing is out of action after being vandalised before Easter. Frome Town Council are organising repairs and awaiting the necessary parts, and will also resolve the poor surfacing, mud and standing water under the zip wire, as part of the management and improvement plan that has now been approved (see above).
A new Showfield Residents Action Group is also being set up so that residents can get involved with Frome Town Council on the improvements and site management. Please let me or Chris Stringer at FTC (firstname.lastname@example.org, 01373 475576) know if you would like to join or find out more.
Flytipping: please see here for details of the impending 18 month closure of Gypsy Lane to through traffic, which starts the week commencing Monday 11th April as part of Mendip District Council’s action against flytipping. This link now includes the MDC letter to residents and the diversion route, and clarifies that walkers, cyclists and horses will still be able to use Gypsy Lane, which will only be closed to vehicles. MDC’s new press release on this can be seen here.
Flooding at Wallbridge: The Wallbridge/New Road junction flooded again on Bank Holiday Monday, and I went to have a look and took photos, and have also found out about progress being made towards a flood alleviation scheme for this area, in the Frome Times report here.
Let’s Clean up Frome: After the successful Stonebridge community litter pick in March, organised by Annabel and Phil Macey of HopeFrome with my and FTC’s support (see here for Frome Standard’s and Frome Times‘ reports of the event), I have been working to reduce litter in the area. Before Easter, I took a group of other councillors, MDC’s Project Officer and FTC’s Environment Manager around Stonebridge to assess the levels of litter and the need for new bins, and MDC and FTC officers agreed to work together to agree the location of some new bins. I asked for maps of the frequency of litter clearance by MDC’s contractors, and the location of all litter bins in Frome, to inform the discussions. I asked for a clear up of litter along Gypsy Lane (between Bath Road and the rugby club) and around the Stonebridge shops. I have asked Tesco and their landlords to consider sponsorship of new litter bins in the area, and to increase the frequency of litter clearance around the shops by their staff and contractors. I am in liaison with Frome Community College in order to tackle litter on and adjacent to the college’s playing fields. Please let me know if litter is building up anywhere, so I can report it to Mendip and their contractors.
Packsaddle Easter Egg Hunt: It was lovely to be invited (with my children) to the Packsaddle Easter Egg Hunt at Packsaddle park. Dozens of children and parents (and grandparents) came to the community event, organised by the Packsaddle Community Group, and also took part in the ‘Community Connections’ consultation organised by Frome Town Council, with tea and cakes (and Easter eggs) provided.
Refugees welcome: The first refugee families from the Syrian civil war will start to arrive in Somerset in the next few weeks, it has been announced. Mendip District Council and other councils agreed to help resettle Syrian refugees through the Government’s Vulnerable Persons resettlement scheme (paid for by the UK Government). A community group in Frome (Frome Syrian Refugee Support Group) was formed to help welcome refugees to Frome, and is helping MDC prepare for their arrival. In September I submitted a motion to MDC and asked questions at Full Council, and encouraged MDC to agree to take action, so I welcome the news. Please contact MDC or the volunteer group if you can help. Britain has agreed to take 20,000 refugees from the war over the next few years, which is around a fifth of our fair share according to Oxfam.
Council Tax Bailiffs: Last autumn, I heard concerns from the Mendip Community Credit Union volunteers, and also Mendip Citizens Advice and national debt advice organisations, that Mendip’s use of bailiffs to collect council tax was potentially harming vulnerable households and families struggling with debt. Mendip used bailiffs more often than other districts in Somerset, so we asked for the council tax collection policies of the Conservative-run council to be reviewed. As result of the Lib Dem motion I led, a cross-party working group was established to look at how the council could better support vulnerable people and families struggling with debts to pay council tax without referring people to bailiffs. A report with 10 recommendations to improve the system was agreed, and approved by Mendip’s Scrutiny Board in March. The council should now be working with Mendip Community Credit Union and Mendip Citizens Advice to implement the recommendations. This should really help vulnerable and financially stressed households get the support they need. Thanks go to the volunteers of Mendip Community Credit Union for raising these concerns in the first place. Update: Mendip District Council’s press release on this is here.
The Mendip Community Credit Union work to enable people in a community to come together to save ethically and to borrow money at competitive rates. If more people volunteer, the MCCU could reach even more people, so to give or receive help please email email@example.com, see https://www.mendipcommunitycu.org.uk/, call 0800 622 6036, or come to Frome Library on Saturdays between 10am and 12 noon or to the Key Centre on Thursday mornings between 9.00 and 11.30am.
The latest Frome Community Groups newsletter is out – let me know or contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be added to the mailing list.
Planning and development news:
Fromefield Co-op: As a result of ongoing complaints from residents, I am in discussion with MDC, Radstock Cooperative, residents and others about the design and appearance of the new Co-operative store in Fromefield, and what could be done to improve it, as it is located within the Frome Conservation Area and next to three listed buildings. So far, MDC and Radco have refused to do anything. But I don’t give up easily, so if you can help in any way, or have any issues that need to be raised, please let me know.
Bath Road Heights: Last week I met with the developer of the Bath Road Heights housing development, Latona Leisure to raise residents’ concerns about delays to the planning application and the state of the derelict site and road. I understand that Latona Leisure are in a final ‘pre-application’ discussion with Mendip’s planning officers, trying to agree details of the planning application which is being prepared for phase 2 to build out the site. I understand that the previous reasons for refusal (by Mendip and upheld at appeal in March 2015, including size and design tree protection, and affordable housing) have been or will be overcome. At the end of this pre-app, a planning application will then be submitted. I understand that the main part of the access road will be resurfaced to ‘adoptable standards’ after the phase 2 development is built and that it would then be for the County Council to adopt the road if residents request this at that time. I think this is all good news, and I will keep you informed when things progress further.
ALERT! At the Commerce Park, in planning application 2015/2871/FUL, Acheson & Acheson have proposed to extend their successful beauty products factory (a B1/B2/B8 development) to the south west. This is within the zone currently reserved for B1 uses (businesses compatible with a residential area) under conditions 30 and 32 of the outline planning permission, but because this is a new full planning application, the outline conditions can be overridden. Find out more here. The full application is likely to be decided at MDC’s next Planning Board meeting on Weds 20th April, and the planning officer’s report is being finalised this week. If any resident wants to comment or object to the factory extension being proposed within the B1 zone, you will need to contact Mendip urgently – please email email@example.com with planning reference 2015/2871/FUL in the subject, or log onto the MDC planning page http://www.mendip.gov.uk/article/3203/Applications-Comments–Decisions, read the documentation, and have your say, before 11th April. To contact the Coalway Lane Residents Association please email firstname.lastname@example.org. If the Planning Board does approve the application, residents will be upset that the promises made when the Commerce Park was approved in 2005, to not site industry and warehousing in the zone closest to residents, are being broken. Find out more here.
Work to upgrade the Rodden Road/Berkley Road ‘Vine Tree’ junction is progressing with a temporary road closure at Rodden Road from 29 February to 22 April. I have also been informed that the junction will be completely closed for 5 nights from next Monday 11th April for 5 nights between 6.30pm and 11.30pm. Please watch out for signs and allow more time for journeys in this area. See here for more.
267 bus timetable changes: There are changes to the timetables for both First’s 267 and Faresaver’s X67 Frome-Bath bus services from 24/25 April. This includes a more sensible spacing out of Faresaver’s after 9am bus from Frome to Bath (the 9.36 is being moved earlier to 9.10 so there is not such a gap), but First are removing the 6.10pm service from Bath to Frome so there will be only the 5.30pm and a 7.10pm service back to Frome for commuters. Please contact the Frome and Villages Bus User Group for more info, at http://favbug.blogspot.co.uk/
More bus cuts to come? The remaining 267 Bath-Frome evening service may be under threat next year, as B&NES Council are considering reviewing (removing) their current subsidy of the last two remaining evening services between Bath and Frome. Somerset County Council removed their subsidy for all Somerset/B&NES cross border services several years ago, and I have asked county councillors to find out more on how SCC could help.
Renewable energy: I attended the Friday seminars of the Frome Switch events in early March, which was a collaboration between Frome Twinning Association and Frome Town Council and sponsored by the European Union. We heard expert advice on initiatives aimed at increasing renewable energy, energy security, reducing fuel poverty and emissions, from UK and international energy experts (Freco, Mongoose Energy, Bristol City Council, University of Bath, and Prof Keith Barnham) and from civic leaders from Frome’s twin towns of Rabka (Poland), Murrhardt (Germany) and Chateau-Gontier (France). More info on the whole weekend can be found here – http://www.frometowncouncil.gov.uk/tackling-climate-change-at-a-local-level/
It has to be said that the Conservative Government’s recent cuts to renewable energy funding, including a 65% cut to the solar Feed-in-Tariff, seriously threaten renewable energy investment and jobs, including in Frome. They do this in the name of protecting electricity consumers from higher prices, while at the same time guaranteeing a much more expensive ‘strike’ price for nuclear power from a future Hinkley C reactor. I am convinced that the UK can massively increase renewable energy output, if only our Government had the political will.
Government goes ‘all out for fracking’: As part of its policy of promoting ‘fracking’ for shale gas, the Conservative Government recently granted licences to South Western Energy (SWE) for potential unconventional gas exploration in Wiltshire and around Beckington near Frome. So I asked SWE and MDC for a meeting. This took place as part of a meeting of the MDC Fracking Working Party in February. South Western Energy’s geologist outlined his current research, which is examining seismic data to understand the potential extent of shale gas and coalbed methane reserves in the blocks they have been offered in Somerset, Wiltshire and elsewhere. The data research is likely to take 12-18 months to conclude. If the research shows sufficient likely reserves, SWE may be in a position to propose to install exploratory drilling rigs to investigate the potential reserves. For the Wiltshire/Somerset blocks they have been offered, any drilling is likely to be in Wiltshire, and not Somerset, on current data. South Western Energy are first considering whether they will take up the blocks offered at all – see here for a map of ‘Eastern blocks’ ST84, 85, 94 and ST95 to the east of Frome (the licence excludes any ground activity in designated SSSIs/SACs at Salisbury Plain and the River Avon). I and other councillors are keeping a close eye on the situation as a member of the MDC Fracking Working Group, which was set up in 2013 when Lib Dem cllrs successfully negotiated a strongly worded cross-party motion, which agreed MDC could not support unconventional gas exploration in Mendip at this time due to environmental concerns, including to Bath’s hot springs. Partly as a result, the former licences covering most of the district were dropped. I will keep you informed.
Lib Dem news:
Police and Crime Commissioner elections: Paul Crossley, the LibDem Candidate for Police & Crime Commissioner, will be in Frome this coming Friday 8th April at the Old Police Station, Oakfield Road, from 11 am. Please come along to support or ask questions. The PCC elections are in May, and polling cards are now being sent out by Mendip. Paul’s campaign launch can be seen here.
Disability benefits: George Osborne should follow Ian Duncan Smith, says Lib Dem leader Tim Farron.
Frome Town Council news:
Please see here http://www.frometowncouncil.gov.uk/news/ for news of:
Mendip District Council news:
Please see here for news of:
MDC’s meetings calendar is here – http://www.mendip.gov.uk/calendarmeeting
Thanks for reading,
Mendip District Councillor for Frome College ward (Liberal Democrat) www.adamboyden.mycouncillor.org.uk
Frome Town Council – 5 Palmer Street, Frome, 01373 465757, www.frometowncouncil.gov.uk
Mendip District Council – 0300 303 8588, www.mendip.gov.uk
Somerset County Council – 0300 123 2224, www.somerset.gov.uk
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