Saxonvale planning permission quashed

by adamboyden on 15 October, 2023

Acorn Property Group’s outline planning permission for a mixed use development (including 300 homes) at the Saxonvale site in Frome has been quashed in the High Court.

The Judicial Review of the Acorn permission was brought by Damon Moore, one of the Directors of Mayday Saxonvale, in relation to the Council’s interpretation of what Mendip’s Local Plan Part 1, Core Policy 6, required for town centre uses (employment space) to be developed at the site. Judge Jay stated that if the Council’s planning officer had erred in relation to the interpretation of Core Policy 6 when Acorn’s planning application was granted, the application for judicial review must succeed. The Judge then agreed with the claimant’s case, that the policy had been misinterpreted, and quashed the Acorn planning permission. The judgement can be read here. News articles and local reaction can be found in the Frome Nub News, and Leveller Live.

Somerset Council owns the land (previously purchased by Mendip District Council), and took over the commercial partnership Mendip District Council had with Acorn Property Group. Planning permission was approved for Acorn’s scheme (ref. 2019/1180/OTS) in August 2022 (councillors on Mendip’s Planning Board approved the outline planning application in January 2021, and again (narrowly) in September 2021; Mendip’s Cabinet approved the Section 106 agreement in August 2022). Mayday Saxonvale‘s rival outline planning application for the site (including 182 homes) was also approved by Mendip’s Planning Board earlier in August 2022 (I voted in favour), after being supported by Frome Town Council, Frome & District Chamber of Commerce and over 1300 residents. Acorn has also recently consulted on plans for a riverside park and bridge in May 2023, and submitted detailed reserved matters plans to develop the site.

Lib Dem MP for Somerton & Frome Sarah Dyke is urging swift action on this (see here). She stated “So far, the future of the Saxonvale site been an emotionally charged and political issue. Given the result of the Judicial Review, it is more vital than ever that stakeholders take stock and consider a way forward. Everyone in Frome has a vested interest in making the right choice for the town. Any development must evidence that it is viable and should balance housing need, commercial space and recreation. It must also deliver the best connectivity possible between the development and the town centre. The opportunity to enhance this beautiful town in the short-term but secure its sustainability well into the future must not be delayed. The worst possible outcome is for this site to be left undeveloped for decades to come.

Frome deserves an exemplar project, and everyone involved wants the optimal outcome for the town. Ideally this needs to be achieved in the shortest time possible and with the least animosity. It is now down to Somerset Council to work with both Mayday Saxonvale and Acorn to ensure the best outcome for Frome as quickly as possible. In addition, Mayday Saxonvale must now demonstrate that they have the capability and financial wherewithal to proceed as Saxonvale cannot be allowed to continue as an empty site. 

I have always been committed to ensuring we get the best possible outcome for Frome and the people who live in the town. This always has been and always will be my number one priority. Frome expects movement without further delay.”

It remains to be seen what will happen next. I understand that Somerset Council is carefully considering the issues before deciding on the next steps. I agree with Sarah (and the Leveller), that the worst thing to happen would be for the site to be left undeveloped for more years to come. It is too important to Frome to get it wrong either.

In the meantime, Mayday Saxonvale are holding the second of their two public meetings, on their community design vision, next Wednesday 18th October (see here).

Let me know what you think, by commenting on this post or emailing

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