Loading Events

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE NEW MAYDAY SAXONVALE SOCIAL ENTERPRISE WEBSITE and sign up for your parachute.

Legal Case Update! 3rd July, 2020

THE GENERAL REGULATORY CHAMBER HAS ACCEPTED EVIDENCE SHOWING ACORN’S CONTRACT WITH MENDIP BREACHED PROCUREMENT REGULATIONS.

SHOULD FROME NOW ACCEPT A DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL FOR SAXONVALE FOUNDED ON AN ILLEGAL CONTRACT?

WE SAY ‘NO!’. IT IS TIME FOR THIS CONTRACT TO BE ANNULLED.

In our case for full disclosure of the developer’s contract, the General Regulatory Chamber First-tier Tribunal have accepted evidence that Acorn’s contract with Mendip District Council was unlawful.  Support our fight here:

crowdjustice.com/case/may-sax

We now call upon the District Council to annul this contract and put the site out to tender in accordance with proper procurement procedure. Meanwhile Acorn, supported by the District Council ARE STILL PUSHING AHEAD with their application in breach of Frome’s local development plan for Saxonvale and with no commitment that the Core Target for affordable housing will be met. Our appeal will be heard by the GRC at the end of August.

Acorn’s June amendments do not address the serious issues raised by consultees and members of the public but those who have made comments on the issues of traffic, Garsdale junction, Garsdale Avenue, (the main service road through the site) & the heights of buildings adjacent to the Silk Mill will need to write in again and say whether their concerns have been addressed.

This message is from our planning consultant Charlie Hopkins;

“Nash Partnership has submitted a number of additional documents amending the original planning application lodged with Mendip District Council previously. The proposed amendments are largely in response to critical comments received from the highway authority, Somerset County Council and local residents.

The amendments are intended to address concerns in respect of the following:

  • Main access via Garside Avenue – visibility, traffic speed and pedestrian crossings
  • Access via Vicarage Street – will now be restricted to pedestrians and cyclists
  • Travel Plan – has been updated.
  • Car parking 
  • Reduction in height along Merchant’s Barton to 2 storeys
  • A number of “illustrative” replacement drawings have been submitted to reflect these changes

The planning application is otherwise unchanged. In the event that the amendments successfully address concerns previously submitted then there is no need for further comment. Should concerns remain in respect of these proposed amendments then further comment or objection should be submitted to MDC by 13 July 2020. There is no need to repeat previously expressed objections as they will be taken into account by MDC. Further comment or objection should therefore be limited to the amendments.”

Mayday Saxonvale Update 30/06/2020

Acorn submitted a series of minor amendments to their Saxonvale outline application, see Planning Portal on Monday 22nd June and public and consultees have three weeks, (until 13th July), to respond. Over this last week, the Planning Portal has been down several times for public viewing and it seems that some documents have disappeared altogether. From today we will be actively monitoring the site for numbers of days lost during the new consultation period.

Acorn’s scheme only seeks full planning on access design. All other matters are reserved meaning that they can be revised or deleted later on. None of the traffic amendments change the density of housing or the numbers of vehicles coming to and from the site.

The essential design of Acorn’s scheme is hardly affected and almost all of these amendments are to overcome current objections by Somerset Highways. Only this  statutory objection blocks Acorn’s route to taking the application to Planning Board so these amendments are the clearest indiction so far that Acorn are intending to impose this scheme upon Frome over and above the many objections lodged.

This is a worrying time but not unexpected. The Silk Mill has seen much skullduggery by candidate developer’s in Saxonvale. 

MAIN ACORN AMENDMENTS 22nd June- 13th July

The amendments are listed in the agents Cover Letter, 16 down from the top of the documents section of the planning portal. Here are the principle ones from that list:

3494-GA-001 Rev P9 Proposed Access Road Chainage and Contour Plan This reduces the speed zone to 20mph in the main route through the site, Garsdale Avenue. There is some widening of the bends and modifications to pedestrian passages.

3494-WSP-HWY-00-RP-D-0002 v2 Supporting revisions following the change to the new vehicular access proposal to Vicarage Street below the Garsdale junction. Acorn have retained a car-parking  arrangement across this single lane driveway for six cars. There is nothing to stop Acorn from resubmitting to have this access put back.

200406_BR563-0002-Saxonvale Frome Travel Plan v03 The Travel Plan is a booklet explaining transportation issues to and from the site.

18073-NP-00-ZZ-DR-A-00011 Rev12 Illustrative Masterplan Updated masterplan showing changes to Garsdale Avenue

18073-NP-00-ZZ_DR-A_10041-Rev 4 Illustrative Site Car Parking Plans Ground & First Modifications to the car-parking plan following the changes to Vicarage Street.

18073_NP_XX_XX_DR_A_10077_Rev2 Building Heights Plan This is a reserved matter affecting the height of the block adjacent to the Silk Mill and can be modified later on by Acorn, (see ‘Reserved Matters’ below).

STOP PRESS! The Mendip site has been down frequently since the start of the new consultation round for making the reading of these new documents difficult.

Reserved Matters ‘Reserved Matters’ is a confusing area of planning. Essentially it means outline proposals can be altered at any later stage. (This would include the Western Warehouse for example which is currently designated for commercial use). There are no guarantees but the question we would ask is why would Acorn want to put so much of a planning application put into this category unless they intended making wholesale alterations later on?

22/06/20

Acorn have issued amendments to their Saxonvale application as of today 22nd June (they are dated 11/6/20 but appeared on 22/6/20). This means a new consultation round of three weeks ending on 13th July. We are working through the amendments most of which relate to highway matters and trying to make sense of the ‘architect speak’.

We will post our conclusions to these changes shortly and announcing the next phase of the Mayday campaign!

 

March 2020

COVID-19 PERIOD UPDATE

Since we began our legal action, the District Council have barred any direct contact with the Silk Mill, yet another demonstration of the lack of democratic accountability and transparency over Acorn’s scheme for Saxonvale. The Acorn contract has been confirmed by our solicitors to be a Public Works Contract and not the straightforward sale agreement that the District Council have always claimed. Meanwhile, the Council have re-written this document as a Deed of Variation to help avoid Mayday’s procurement challenge. Full disclosure of the contract for our legal team is ongoing and currently being appealed to the First-Tier Tribunal. It could go all the way to the High Court.

There are clear indications that Mendip District Council and Acorn’s plan is to impose this very unpopular and unsympathetic scheme onto our wonderfully creative and special town.  We would like to assure all of our campaign supporters that during the Covid-19 lockdown the campaign has been active and our legal team have been investigating all possible avenues.

Please go to:

crowdjustice.com/case/may-sax

to save Frome and expose the way that this local authority has appointed the developer for Saxonvale.  Some of the funds from the previous appeal are still there so we are not starting from zero but we will need to raise a significant amount more to be able to get Mendip to face the music. We have a new specialist planning, environmental & public law firm. which is why we have to have a fresh start with CrowdJustice.

The consultation period has now ended and there have been a fantastic number of brilliant comments made in objection to the application.

Click here to read them.

If you need to contact Mendip this is the email address:

consultations@mendip.gov.uk 

5 things you might object to in the plans:

1. No green corridors despite the Adopted Local Plan stating all new development needs to improve places for wildlife.

2. The blocks are arranged for cars, not pedestrians. The roads are too straight and the pavements too narrow.

3. Traffic in Frome is already a huge challenge.  The extra number of private cars that 300 new dwellings this could bring in would make the traffic in Christ Church Street East and the roundabout above Lidl even more problematic than it already is.  The location of St John’s School needs to be considered in relation to this.

4. Poor sense of connection to the wonderful river. The developers talk about a new cafe but the river could be so much better enhanced than the plans suggest.

5. Sizes and layouts of the buildings is not at all sympathetic to the surrounding buildings in Frome. The connection with the old and the new has not been addressed and the huge scale of the buildings on the west side (between old and new) will create a barrier that will make integration difficult. This is particularly the case where a 3 storey (office) building is planned between St John’s Church and the Silk Mill.

Specific planning points are listed below but there is no need to quote them so long as you use the planning number 2019/1180/OTS to connect it to this application.

See below for our guide to Acorn’s plan ‘IS THIS WHAT FROME WANTS FOR SAXONVALE?’

Quote 2019/1180/OTS and be as specific about what you object to as you can. Here is a link to Mendip’s LOCAL PLAN.

Helpful Planning Legislation you can quote in response to Acorn’s application.

Topics are in red, chose those that shout out to you, then use the blue reference points to frame your response…then send your response to:

consultations@mendip.gov.uk

(We have made a list of abbreviations at the end of this section if you need it)

What? Acorn’s scheme breaches the LOCAL PLAN

The Local Plan must follow National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), it does not.

Policy doc to quote: 

NPPF para.6, “the purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development.”

What? Acorn’s scheme does not meet FROME’S FUTURE NEEDS

Sustainable development is defined in United Nations resolution 42/187 as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Policy doc to quote: 

1.8 of the (Adopted Local Plan) ALP

What? Acorn’s plan has not demonstrated that it delivers sufficient ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL and ECONOMIC benefits 

Policy doc to quote: 

1.9 of the ALP; ‘NPPF restates the long held rationale for the planning system, namely to maximise, collectively, the social, economic and environmental benefits in the development and use of land’. 

What? Acorn’s plan offers no support for Frome’s Local ECONOMIC MODEL (creative entrepreneurial, cultural & community sectors). It does not provide opportunities for affordable workspace and businesses relocating to the town.

Mendip’s Corporate Plan has four priorities the first of which is to support business development & growth.

Policy doc to quote: 

DP20: Reuse of Employment Sites

Proposals for the development of land or buildings previously or currently used for, or currently allocated for, activities falling within Use Classes B1, B2 or B8 will be supported where it can be demonstrated that:

  • the re-use for non-B class employment generating uses or for mixed-use schemes will deliver comparable employment generation (based on number of jobs created) or wider economic benefit.

What? TRAFFIC

Acorn’s traffic plan is incomplete

Policy doc to quote: 

Development Policies (DP)9: ‘Transport impact of new development’

DP9 qualifies the highway safety policy by raising the issue of appropriateness. This is proved by the size of the Saxonvale development.

AND

Vision for Mendip, (ALP) To improve accessibility by means other than the private car. 

3.18 ‘Ensure that the majority of new developments, particularly major traffic generators, are located to be accessible by a range of transport modes’.

3.19 ‘Create safe & convenient footpath & cycleway networks, ensuring that new development encourages walking, cycling & the use of public transport’

What? CLIMATE CONCERNS

Acorn’s scheme does not comply with the Strategic Objectives of the Mendip Local Plan.

Policy doc to quote: 

Vision for Mendip, 20-23

What? VIABILITY

National planning policy sets out sets out the government’s recommended approach to viability (ie ‘profitability’) assessment for planning. For a site this large, a proper viability assessment must have been carried out and that it is, ‘proportionate, simple, transparent 

and publicly available’. There is no viability study that we have found which would be almost certainly required for a site this large.

Policy doc to quote: 

NPPG para 57

What? COMMERCIAL MIX

The Core Strategy target for commercial uses is 130,000sqft.  Acorn’s application cuts this by two thirds to 45,000sqft

Policy doc to quote: 

MDC Core Strategy

What? IMPOSED AND OVERBEARING ARCHITECTURE

Views & sightlines blocked off by featureless elevations. No sense of connectivity between public open spaces & main residential areas. New riverside park is a destination between high buildings rather than being signalled in the landscape. Heights of buildings mean pedestrians have little idea of where they are in relation to the landscape.

Policy doc to quote: 

Frome Town Council’s Neighbourhood Plan, 2.1, 3.0, 4.4, 5.0, especially BE1 & Objective 3, 7.3, 8.2 & 9.3, Site C

DP7: Design and Amenity of New Development 

The Local Planning Authority will support high quality design which results in usable, durable, adaptable, sustainable and attractive places.

Proposals for new development should demonstrate that they:

a) are of a scale, mass, form and layout appropriate to the local context

b) protect the amenity of users of neighbouring buildings and land uses and provide a satisfactory environment for current and future occupants

c) optimise the potential of the site in a manner consistent with other requirements of this policy

d) incorporate all practical measures to achieve energy efficiency through siting, layout and design

e) maximise opportunities for:

       i. use locally sourced or recycled materials wherever practically possible

      ii. meet the access needs of a wide range of users

      iii. incorporate appropriate crime prevention measures

      iv. undertake construction in a manner that makes efficient use of materials and minimises waste.

f) use locally sourced or recycled materials wherever practically possible

g) meet the access needs of a wide range of users

h) incorporate appropriate crime prevention measures

i) undertake construction in a manner that makes efficient use of materials and minimises waste.

2. All allocations will be the subject of either an appropriately detailed Development Brief or Masterplan or other structured and agreed pre-application process prepared in conjunction with the relevant community.  Where a Development Brief/Masterplan is prepared, it will, where appropriate, be adopted as a Supplementary Planning Document prior to the granting of planning permission.

What? HOUSING

The Local Plan sets a maximum of 250 residential units for Saxonvale.  Acorn’s application has 300, (quote breach of Local Plan).

The housing allocation for Frome will be almost met without a single new home being built in Saxonvale, 

Policy doc to quote:

DP 11 (affordable housing) and DP14 (housing mix)

The housing allocation for this site is 250 dwellings but there are currently 300 planned.

20% has been proposed as affordable where the policy states 30%

What? HERITAGE

Acorn’s scheme creates unsightly barriers, disrupts the street pattern and demolishes historic fabric associated with a Listed Building Cluster in the central conservation area.

Policy to quote:

NPPF para. 92 ‘In determining applications, local planning authorities should take account of: 

  1. a) the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets & putting them to viable uses consistent with their conservation. 
  2. b) the positive contribution that conservation of heritage assets can make to sustainable communities including their economic vitality and 
  3. c) the desirability of new development making a positive contribution to local character and distinctiveness’.

What? DESIGN

The ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’ Commission has reported and they recommend a framework to turn down ugliness in planning applications

Action: 

Write to the Secretary of State as grounds to call-in the application)

What? SECRECY

All 11 of Frome’s District Councillors and others signed Non Disclosure Agreements before the consultation started meaning they it is illegal for them to disclose anything about the contract between Acorn and Mendip District Council. This means the consultation for Saxonvale was biased from the outset. Many relevant organisations were not consulted.

Action: 

Write to the Secretary of State as grounds to call-in the application.

What? BENEFIT TO FROME

Acorn’s proposals does not bring sufficient benefit to Frome other than that of a difficult 

site being developed.

Policy doc to quote: 

Adopted Local Plan, Spatial Planning section: ‘A Spatial Planning framework, provided by the Local Plan, accepts that the wider benefits of proposals for a particular place are central, rather than the policies themselves’

What? IMPARTIALITY

Mendip District Council are too commercially involved with Acorn to make an impartial 

and independent determination of the planning application. Perception of breaches of public procurement legislation and hard evidence of over-spending by the District Council. Until 

the developer’s contract is fully disclosed without redactions and the widespread use of 

Non Disclosure Agreements justified, the legality of the relationship between Acorn and 

the District Council is open to question. 

Action: 

Write to the Secretary of State as grounds to call-in the application

What? PREMATURE STATUS OF APPLICATION

The considerable defects of Acorn’s plan, non-conformity to the priorities of the Local Plan, NPPG and other planning guidance, the lack of planning evidence and supporting data especially in regard to traffic and transport, wide variation from DP7 in Development Briefs 

& Masterplans, (no.6 Local Development Policies), the indiscriminate use of NDA’s compromising proper consultation, hard evidence of over-spending, supporting evidence raising concerns over a potential breach of public procurement legislation and serious issues over viability and transparency justify the scheme being called in by the Secretary of State.

Action: 

Write to the Secretary of State as grounds to call-in the application

Links for further investigation if you have got the bit between your teeth!

Adopted Local Plan:

http://www.planvu.co.uk/mdc/cpt1.php#sec1

National Planning Policy Framework:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-planning-policy-framework–2

Abbreviations:

MDC – Mendip District Council

NPPG – National Planning Practise Guidance

NPPF – National Planning Policy Framework

ALP – Adopted Local Plan including: 

DP – Development Policies

CP – Core Policies, 

SPD – Supplementary Planning Documents

Development Vision & Key Strategic Objectives

NP – Frome Town Council Neighbourhood Plan, (part of statutory Development Plan) 

CA – Conservation Area Character Appraisals

CP – MDC Corporate Plan

Below are some of the details of the plans:

DESIGN ACCESS_STATEMENT_PART_1

DESIGN ACCESS_STATEMENT_PART_2

Green & Blue Infrastructure Parameter Plan:

Green Infrastructure Plan

The full list of 91 documents is linked on the MDC website here

Update on Mayday Saxonvale

The Mayday campaign has been completely vindicated.

The Deed of Variation has finally been disclosed as a redacted document by Mendip District Council showing that the Developer’s Obligation has been delated from the original document. Prior to that delation, the contract is now confirmed as having been a Public Works Contract. The Deed has gone through four versions, so the District Council must have started working on the revised agreement soon after we lodged our first FOI request in May last year, (which was very sneaky of them!).

The District Council ought to have put in place a proper tender process at the time and it is proved now that they did not.

Since the limitation applies, (we are only granted a certain period of time in which to make the challenge by the courts), and the contract has been altered we are now preparing a new line of litigation which our legal team believes will be effective.

November 2019

Here is a short summary film of the Alternative Futures meeting that was held at the Silk Mill in November 2019.  There are some very important points made by the speakers and the participants. Feel free to share.

 

 

e-leaflet
Build InCommon
espouse the way that we would dearly love this site to be developed.  We are organising a talk by one of their people. Watch the film linked below for more information about them

FORMAL COMPLAINT TO NASH PARTNERSHIPS FOR BREECH OF RIBA CODE OF PRACTICE

There are many many documents on the MDC planning portal. See the full list here.

OBJECTIVES:

  • 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

ALTERNATIVELY…

Saxonvale Saturday Afternoon Project

was a gathering of local people who had some alternative ideas.  Click here to go to the SSAP page of our website.

MAYDAY SAXONVALE Q&A

You may have heard of Saxonvale. It’s the derelict site in the centre of town that runs along the river between Marks and Spencers’ car park and Lidl. It’s the last undeveloped space in Frome’s wonderful town centre and represents a huge opportunity if we get it right.

There have been lots of different plans (by various developers/local groups/councils) to renovate it over the last twenty years, although none has come to fruition.

With a Frome-focused plan for the site, it could completely change the town centre and the opportunities Frome can offer to residents and businesses.

What you may NOT know is that there has recently been a significant change affecting the site’s future. And it’s not a positive one. We’ve put together some simple questions and answers explaining what’s going on.

Who now owns the site and what are they planning to do with it?
Mendip District Council bought Saxonvale in 2018 under a non-disclosure agreement and made a secret agreement with residential developers Acorn and Nash Architects to develop the site that was only announced several months later.

What will they build there?
Acorn’s scheme is designed for one purpose only – to return a maximal profit to Acorn & the District Council. They will do this by cramming the site with flats and houses. Every house and apartment sold delivers an additional profit to the District Council.

What’s wrong with that? Isn’t there a housing crisis?
We need to remember that this site, given its location, could and should offer a genuine extension of the town centre with new places for people to work – close to where they live.

Saxonvale is the traditional employment and commercial site of the town and is right next door to the town centre. Acorn’s planning application is highly restrictive of new business and commercial opportunities. There there are lots of exciting options for the site which haven’t been properly explored because of the way the application is being fast-tracked.

We want to see a sustainable development with green infrastructure at its heart and a plan delivering the requirements and aspirations of Frome’s community, cultural and arts organisations.

Frome has built a national reputation as a fertile ground for independent businesses and traders, local entrepreneurs, arts organisations and political innovation. The community in Frome is strong, practical and active. We don’t believe that Mendip District Council and Acorn are seeking to nurture this reputation or the positive outcomes it has for local people.

So what can we do about all this? Have the District Council done anything wrong legally?
Our evidence, which has been reviewed by expert lawyers, suggests that they have. Under procurement legislation, public authorities are required to have a fair, open & transparent tendering process before any contracts are agreed to deliver works with private companies but Acorn were appointed without a tendering process anywhere to be seen and genuine commercial developers have been turned away. If the District Council have in fact, acted against the public interest of Frome in this way, then it constitutes a very serious offence. Town and District Councillors have been required to sign non-disclosure agreements before they can be briefed about Saxonvale.

Mayday Saxonvale
The masterplan for the site has been weakened so we need your help to raise funding and take the District Council to court. It is the only way to prevent this underhand development being imposed upon Frome.

If you can help us with a donation, please head over to the Crowd Justice page here. Your donation will only be taken from your account if we reach complete funding – so you can guarantee that your money will be put to good use.

If you can’t afford to help us financially, please spread the word! Tell everybody that Saxonvale needs our attention. We need to mobilise as a community to stop these plans before it’s too late. If we work together, we can still change things and hold on to this amazing opportunity for Frome’s future.